Audiences were taken back to 18th century France where wigs and heavy clothing combined beautifully with opera. With the entire production sung in French, a cultural experience presented itself powerfully through the vocals and the French accents of the cast.
The Fullerton College Opera Theatre presented their first show of “The Follies of Love” on Friday, Feb. 2, with a solid performance and nearly a full house that didn’t shy from expressing how much they enjoyed the production.
“It was really good,” said Sarah Villacarillo, Fullerton College student. “The production quality was a whole lot better than I expected.“
“The Follies of Love” consisted of Act IV of “Manon” and the complete opera of “Le Portrait de Manon” which were both written by Jules Massenet in the late 19th century.
In “Le Portrait de Manon”, Des Grieux (Michael Segura) speaks as if in love, but that emotion quickly turns into grief since the girl he reminisces over about has been deceased for years.
The director of “The Follies of Love”, Aram Barsamian, was struck by the struggle raging inside Des Grieux in “Le Portrait de Manon” that he decided adding Act IV of “Manon” as a flashback would be very beneficial for the audience.
Throughout the opera play, English subtitles were projected above the stage since the production was entirely in French.
As Act IV of “Manon” begins the opera, it was easily visible how deeply in love Des Grieux was with Manon (Stacey Simbulan). Travis Hancock, who portrayed the young version of Des Grieux, and Simbulan did not hold back as they presented a stellar duet performance.
“It was one of the most challenging productions that I’ve ever done here,” Simbulan said. “Emotionally it’s a lot. You have to give it your all and it can be draining, but it was all worth it in the end”
Although the focus of this opera show was the singing, the acting was just as important to the cast.
Whether it was Samuel Derro, who portrayed Guilliot de Monfortaine, acting wittily as he explained his jokes or John De Long, who portrayed Lescaut, shuffling his hands in money as he sang a song about how he loves gambling, the cast gave it their all which resulted in a memorable production.
The second half of “The Follies of Love”, “Le Portrait de Manon”, focused on Des Grieux 30 years after Act IV. The spotlight was on Segura who did not disappoint as his emotional clash between love and despair was present along with a powerful voice.
Segura explained that it was not easy to execute this French production by Jules Massenet.
“We had to memorize what it was in English as well as in French. So we had to know the French words but you also have to translate it literally, translate it poetically, and then memorize all of that,” Segura said.
“That’s so you know exactly what everyone is saying and react correctly,” Segura continued.
Fluent in the French and Italian language, Barsamian created pronunciation guides for the cast.
“I would record my own speech and I would speak their text for them so they had something with them to practice,” Barsamian said.
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) was also used to write out pronunciations of the French texts as well since music singers are trained to read IPA
“I’m incredibly proud of our students because what I asked them to do is really hard. I asked them to: Learn French, speak French, and sing French and I asked them to act while speaking French.”
“The Follies of Love” will play again at the FC Recital Hall on Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 4 at 3:00 p.m. For more information on tickets and parking, visit their website here.