Last night I attended the opera-ballet “Les Sauvages” presented by Bourbon Baroque  in collaboration with Squallis Puppeteers . Needless to say, this was one of the best performances I have ever attended. There are four main puppet characters in “Les Sauvages”: a white buffalo named Zima, a coyote named Adario, a Spanish stallion named Don Alvar, and a French peacock named Damon. The synopsis for the play is your typical love story. Adario, the coyote, is in love with Zima, the white buffalo. Don Alvar, the Spanish stallion, and Damon, the French peacock are also in love with Zima. For reasons of her own Zima rejects Damon and Don Alvar, and Adario and Zima run off together and live happily ever after.
Each of the main characters was at least ten feet tall and were operated by one person inside the puppet. Their designs were absolutely beautiful. I was very surprised and impressed to find out that the four main puppets were produced from mostly donated and recycled materials. Each of the puppets had moving mouths and appendages. The two features that stood out the most for me were the peacock puppet’s tail plumage was stunning and vibrantly colored, and the buffalo was capable of kicking up her hind legs. The ingenuity displayed by the Squallis Puppeteers was exemplary.
The fine puppetry craftsmanship was complimented by Bourbon Baroque’s exquisite accompaniment. The entire ensemble was tight and had great energy. The ensemble displayed great precision playing and clarity that I have not heard in Louisville with any musical ensemble in a long time. The quick passages were in perfect unison down to the trills. I also enjoyed the authentic baroque sound with the use of baroque instrumentation, styling, and tuning. The strings used little or no vibrato giving the tone a very pure, clean sound. The dynamic changes and swells were achieved with great finesse in regards to the string players’ bowing technique. The lead vocalists and chorus were also highly skilled and sounded great with exceptional tone.
The production staff also gets some special praise for the excellent lighting and staging. The colored lighting done by Theresa Bagan really set an exotic mood for the production. The staging and scenery by Nick Covault and Gerald Kean was subtle and not over done leaving the production classy and not tacky.
There is another performance tonight at 7:00pm.
Photos courtesy of: John Austin Clark and Anna Blanton