The Vancouver Opera’s production of Evita is the season finale and it is a disappointment. The musical constrains are extensive, the staging unimaginative, and the story is forced both in its construction and its overall impact. It is clear that Eva is ambitious. Immediately on opening the audience is pushed rapidly through a series of encounters that retell her rise to the pinnacle of power. She is totally self absorbed but portrays herself as the true symbol Argentina and its people. No one and nothing else matters in her life.
The music is neither varied nor challenging. After a time the songs all begin to sound the same and the theme song «Don’t Cry for Me Argentina» seems to appear when the pace of the story begins to flag. There is more than one occasion when the volume of the music drowns out the voices for no apparent benefit to the production.
The staging is a repeat of the style used in Sweeney Todd and the projections used to display crowds and Buenos Aires street scenes are mixed in their results. Arguably it is a cheap way to avoid designing a couple of good sets.
Two voices stand out and, fortunately, they are the two principal roles.
Caroline Bowman delivers a convincing Evita with all her manipulative scheming and her feminine wiles. Her voice is strong and convincing and sustains her character throughout the production.
Ramin Karimloo, as the narrator, is provocative and challenging of Eva’s real agenda – whether the power and the glory as the wife of Juan Peron or a true supporter of the people. Mr. Karimloo’s voice is a bit weak in the lower register but fine elsewhere and his energy carries his performance very well.
Eva certainly basks in the adulation but is it all a con? The Europeans, excluding the Spanish and the Italians, are unimpressed with Eva as spokensperson/ symbol of her country and the local gentry consider her as no more than another of Peron’s mistresses. Whether she is who she claims to be and whether she believes her husband loves her for who she is is left up to the audience to decide.
The character of Juan Peron as presented by John Cudia is cautious and insecure. His vocal roles and stage presence are very subdued. Eva is his driving force but his generals look askance at the power she is assuming. They mistrust her intentions. The audience must decide whether the scepticism is justified or whether Eva is a force to be reckoned with. Certainly her early demise leaves that open to plenty of debate.
The production is based on the character of a single individual, supported by bits of music and dance and enough decoration to give the story a sense of place; however, it is too one dimensional to stir much emotions or leave the audience with any lasting impression, except a catchy tune.