Sin City’s ‘Ba-Ta-Clan’ had lewd laughs and sopranos in hot pink

Jacob Coakley

Sin City Opera blew away any preconceived notions of stuffy opera for its latest go-round, an artful deconstruction and reconfigured staging of the Jacques Offenbach operetta Ba-Ta-Clan. Adapted and directed by SCO artistic director Skip Galla, the production skewered 18th century opera conventions, Orientalism, gender and more in a fast and funny hour that melded high and low art. For example: a lewd “Tales of Boffmann” joke. On one level, it’s a deprecating gag at the expense of someone bragging about sexual prowess; on another, it’s a play on Offenbach’s most famous opera, The Tales of Hoffmann. Laugh at either, Sin City Opera doesn’t care.

The Details

four stars
Onyx Theatre, November 5

And the Vegas company didn’t just add modern humor. Part of the deconstruction of the piece recast the gender of two of the main characters, adding more opportunities for bawdy humor but also providing a showcase for three very talented sopranos. The roles of Ké-ki-ka-ko and Fé-ni-han, normally played by men, were instead handled by Ginger Land-van Buuren and Michelle Thelen, respectively; and with Judy Lombino as Fé-an-nich-ton, the three divas had fun playing off one another for supremacy.

Their singing was superb (as was everyone’s), simultaneously carrying the thrust of the operetta and the post-modern character kitsch around it. And Skip Galla was a good sport as Ko-ko-ri-ko, getting in his share of bawdy jokes while providing a nice round baritone balance.

With all its pomp, circumstance and tradition, opera can be fairly ridiculous. Sin City Opera pokes fun at it, but has enough talent to make it shine as art, too.


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