Met Opera tenor joins Charleston Chamber Opera for Spanish pastiche

Tenor Hugo Vera rehearsed "Granada" with soprano Diana Thompson (center) and mezzo-soprano Lara Wilson.

Gypsy ghosts and the passionate poetry of Pablo Neruda come alive this weekend with the Piccolo Spoleto performance of “Viva España.” The all-Spanish program is presented by Charleston Chamber Opera and features Metropolitan Opera tenor Hugo Vera. Vera makes his third consecutive appearance in Charleston this year with this production.

“Viva España” showcases a pastiche of music by Spanish composers. Each selection holds its own separate story and provides a broad palette of different styles. Selections from El Amor Brujo and La Vida Breve will feature music from one of Spain’s most beloved musicians, Manuel de Falla. In contrast, snippets are taken from “Il Postino” which premiered in 2010. The program will close with a rousing rendition of “Granada,” a Mexican standard.

Vera recently performed the role of Neruda in “Il Postino” at Philadelphia’s Center City Opera Theater. He made his Spoleto debut in 2010 singing Haydn and returned the next year to appear in “The Magic Flute.”

“The environment this time of year is so electrifying,” Vera said. “It’s so rare to find this kind of energy. I’m always excited to be with the Charlestonians.”

Vera was first introduced to Charleston Chamber Opera last year by mutual friend Christian Elser, the general director of Greenville Light Opera Works, while attending a performance of Shakespeare Alive! Vera’s strength in Spanish repertoire and desire to return to Charleston provided the perfect synergy for “Viva España.”

“What I like about Piccolo is the sense of community,” Vera said. “It brings something really intimate.”

This sentiment arises in the stunning array of Southeastern talent involved in the show. Coloratura soprano Diana Thompson hails from Augusta, Ga., and makes her Charleston debut. As the youngest cast member of “Viva España,” she enjoys the challenge of learning a new vocabulary of music and taking on ingénue roles.

“I feel like this is a big part,” Thompson said. “But it’s also like Gestalt Theory—a part makes up the whole.”

She is joined by Lara Wilson, mezzo-soprano and executive director of Charleston Chamber Opera. GuitaristChristopher Teves, fiery flamenco dancer Susana Butler and pianist Lynn Kompass also will perform.

“The combination of forces is very unique,” Wilson said. “When you bring different mediums and different elements in, it becomes so much more of a pretty picture.”

Samara Napolitan is a Newhouse School graduate student.