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LSU Opera’s ‘Bernarda Alba’ mixes tension, control and an unhappy mother; Show opens Friday

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Berenice Carrera, left, plays the title character, Bernarda Alba, the mother who must mourn for six years with her five daughters upon the death of her second husband, in LSU Opera’s production of ‘La Casa de Bernarda Alba.’ 




If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.

And it seems Bernarda Alba hasn’t been happy for a long time. With the recent death of her second husband, she’s now the widowed mother to five grown daughters and she’s house-bound with them for a six-year mourning period.

Yes. Six. Long. Years.

Oh, the idea isn’t hers; it’s her country’s tradition. While all are dressed in black, Bernarda battles to keep each under her control. Throw in a major dose of sibling rivalry, and the situation becomes even more explosive.

At this point, Mama ain’t happy, but to be fair, neither is anyone else.

It’s also at this point where you’ll meet Bernarda and her daughters when the curtain opens for the first of three acts in LSU’s Turner-Fischer Center for Opera’s production of “La Casa de Bernarda Alba.”







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Berenice Carrera, left, plays the title character, Bernarda Alba, the mother who must mourn for six years with her five daughters upon the death of her second husband, in LSU Opera’s production of ‘La Casa de Bernarda Alba.’ 




Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Shaver Theatre in the LSU Music and Dramatic Arts Building on Dalrymple Drive.

The opera, performed in English, is new, having premiered at the Cleveland Opera in 2022, and is a reimagined adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s legendary tragic drama, “The House of Bernarda Alba,” by composer Griffin Candey and librettist Caridad Svich.

LSU’s performance will be both the collegiate and Baton Rouge premieres for this opera dominated by female voices, which was the main reason Music Director Michael Borowitz pushed the department to produce “Bernarda Alba.”

“I’ve always tried to keep on my radar pieces that really showcase the alto and soprano voice,” he said. “They’re rare, especially in classical opera, where those composers tended to people the shows with mostly men, and they’d have one or two soprano leads and that was it. So, it’s nice to have something like this that is an all-soprano and alto cast, and everybody’s got a very substantial part to play because it’s all about ensemble.”

Borowitz attended the opera’s Cleveland premiere.







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Berenice Carrera, back, left, plays the title character, Bernarda Alba, in LSU Opera’s ‘La Casa de Bernarda Alba.’ Bernarda must remain in mourning with her five daughters for six years upon her husband’s death.




“The composer writes a lot of symphonic work and has a real ear for drama, so I think the score is a little modern Puccini,” he said.

Composer Giacomo Puccini ushered in Italian opera’s verismo movement, which sought to portray the story with greater realism.

“Bernarda Alba” is replete with the reality of a family’s twisted situation, and Sydney Sorbet is helping to bring it to life.

Sorbet is a senior vocal performance major from Covington. Dugg McDonough, director of this show, has named her co-director.

“I’m a singer, but I’ve taken a couple of Dugg’s directing classes, and I’ve been looking for some opportunities to do some assistant directing,” she said. “I assisted some scenes we did a couple of semesters ago, and I went to Wichita, Kansas, and assisted in directing a production of ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ with music on-site.”







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Berenice Carrera, back, left, plays the title character, Bernarda Alba, in LSU Opera’s ‘La Casa de Bernarda Alba.’ Bernarda must remain in mourning with her five daughters for six years upon her husband’s death.




This opera, though, is different. Again, it’s new, and Borowitz points out, it’s heavy with tension.

It’s also a Baton Rouge premiere, but Sorbet isn’t feeling pressure.

“It’s been fun,” she said. “And Dugg has been really helpful. We’ve talked through everything, and it’s been a really good experience.”

Speaking of pressure, though lead singer Berenice Carrera knows she’ll be introducing Baton Rouge audiences to the character of Bernarda Alba, she’s more excited than nervous.

“This is the collegiate premiere of this opera, and I know there’s going to be a lot of expectation about how it’s going to be,” she said. “Because it’s a new opera, the style is going to be different from anything that people have heard before, and I think the music portrays how strong Bernarda is — how mean she is, and how she doesn’t treat her daughters right.”

The alto soprano is a doctoral candidate from Ecuador. 







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Berenice Carrera sings the title role of Bernarda Alba in LSU Opera’s production, ‘La Casa de Bernarda Alba.’ This production will be the opera’s collegiate premier. 




“You know, there is a little bit of pressure in playing this character,” Carerra said. “But it’s actually very exciting just to have the opportunity to work with something really new.”

The show’s newness also allows for surprises.

“There’s a lot going on in this story,” Borowitz said. “You find out early on that Bernarda’s husband had been sleeping with every maid in the house, and her oldest daughter, who is almost 40, is about to be married. That daughter is supposed to be in mourning, but you find out that her father was actually Bernarda’s first husband.”

All of the daughters want out. It’s the middle of summer, and the male workers have shown up to work the fields.

“They look out of the window at the workers and listen as the workers sing their songs,” Borowitz said. “So, there’s sexual tension in it.”

Finally, there’s the inevitable plot twist.

“I can’t give it away, but one of the daughters is pretty horrible and does a pretty terrible thing,” Borowitz said. “That instigates another tragedy, and for me, that’s what great opera’s about — a surprise and a twist. I love that.”

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