Jun 6, 2011
Source: The Epoch Times
The lights cast faint red shadows onto the gently billowing curtains, setting the stage ablaze. As the music swelled to its climax, the ensemble sang out in harmony, “Bring on the rain … Let the waters of God douse the fires of hate.”
Hope and perseverance are at the core of Evan Mack's new contemporary opera, Angel of the Amazon, produced by Encompass New Opera Theatre. Based on true events, the opera follows Sister Dorothy Stang as she goes on her mission to stop worker exploitation and rainforest destruction in the Amazon.
Sister Dorothy’s sustainable farming project often brought her in conflict with local landowners and business companies. On February 12, 2005, she was shot and killed by gunmen, likely hired by the owner of a local logging company.
In the opera, despite multiple setbacks, Sister Dorothy persists in her faith in God and demands that the local government protect the indigenous peoples’ rights. She stands in stark contrast to the leader of the farmers, Luiz, who remains skeptical of God’s grace having witnessed his people continually oppressed by the rich and powerful.
The villain is Vito, the owner of a logging company. The corrupt Police Chief, along with the Bishop at the head of the Pastoral Land Commission, and Mr. Rico of the INCRA (a government agency that promotes the settling of the Amazon basin) round out the cast of those who oppose Sister Dorothy.
The success of Sister Dorothy’s farming project results in better living conditions for the people, but also provokes the wrath of local land and business owners. When things finally seem to improve for the better, the village is burned and people kidnapped.
José Rubio gave a standout performance as Luiz, whose impassioned and rich voice fit perfectly with his conflicted character. Exasperated after the village is razed, Luiz questions the Lord: “I’ve had to fight for all my needs, fight for my food, fight for my home, fight just to live. The dream had to die. … I have seen what you’ve done to your only son—what then will you do to my dream?”
Luiz’s soliloquy reflects the precarious state the indigenous people live in, simply to survive. The plight of his people was revealed in the timbre of his voice.
In the end, Luiz chooses to believe in Sister Dorothy, who fights relentlessly for the villagers’ right to their land and their livelihood.
Caitlin Mathes sang beautifully, her angelic voice penetrated the theater and reverberated with the uprightness and bravery of her character. Sister Dorothy is a martyr, a woman whose love for God and the Brazilian people compels her to remain courageous even in the face of death—before she is killed, she calmly recites the Beatitudes (Blessings) to her murderers.
Other members of the cast also possessed powerful voices, like Douglas Jabara’s maniacal Police Chief.
But the chorus was just as memorable. When the entire ensemble sang together during multiple scenes, their voices blended into a thunderous force of emotion. In Act I, Scene 4, when the village is set on fire, their voices were haunting, calling out for help; in the final scenes of Act II, when Sister Dorothy goes to the capital to appeal to the National Assembly, their voices whisper, “Hear us. Listen to us. Hear us today.”
To evoke the unique setting of his opera, composer Evan Mack added Brazilian rhythms and instruments like the marimba and guitar to his music. The orchestration was rounded out with piano, two violins, and two celli.
All in all, Angel of the Amazon brought to light the urgency of the current situation in Brazil, conveying its social message while satisfying fans of contemporary opera.