Karchin’s musical language is wildly inventive, and his orchestrations vivid and deft…evocative orchestral passages that captured the novel’s repressed romantic passion. The singers rose to the opera’s challenges with blazing talent and commitment. Jennifer Zetlan’s performance in the title role was nothing short of heroic. Her Jane was plucky, innocent, and appealingly self-aware, quietly observant but palpating with deep emotion. Tenor Ryan MacPherson made a handsome, elegant Rochester, singing with brilliant, bright tone. Baritone Thomas Meglioranza was perfectly pitched as Jane’s pious cousin St. John Rivers, while Jessica Thompson and Jessica Best fluttered appealingly as his affectionate sisters. Soprano Kimberly Giordano added warmth to the staunch housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. The sizable orchestra, led by Sara Jobin, played superbly…..
Diane Osen’s sturdy libretto for Karchin does a good job of boiling the novel down to its essence: the romantic relationship between the governess Jane Eyre and Rochester, master of the estate on which she is employed. The opera is paced engagingly and, like Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti fragments having been quoted earlier), it builds to a stormy Act 2 climax in which an intruder interrupts a wedding ceremony….. “[The] final duet came off as a high point, a soaring piece that put a four-note motif through churning modulatory progressions before reaching a serene sustained chord to end the opera in a Wagnerian manner. This was just one element of Karchin’s richly eclectic style…. “Karchin, a New York University professor whom Andrew Porter called a ‘composer of ‘fearless eloquence’, proved himself a master of his craft. CCO served Jane Eyre well, especially in the casting of the leading roles with Jennifer Zetlan as Jane and Ryan MacPherson as Rochester, who brought their characters to vivid vocal and dramatic life…. “ Keenly directed by Kristine McIntrye.
“Karchin’s Jane Eyre is an old-fashioned opera, bold in its aim, unblushing about opera’s traditions. I got the feeling that Karchin was writing from the heart, as well as the head—that he was not out to impress critics or colleagues, but to write a good opera…... “He tells the story through the orchestra, as much as the singers, with their words. This is a symphonic opera as much as a vocal one. Karchin writes like a man who has lived with opera, although Jane Eyre is only his second opera, and his first full-length one. Ah well: Beethoven wrote just one opera. So did Gershwin.
“In the Kaye Playhouse, Jane Eyre was served by a very good production, overseen by the director, Kristine McIntyre. Use of video was intelligent. At every turn, the production enhanced the story, libretto, and music, rather than overtaking them. The Directors’ Guild may revoke McIntrye’s membership…. “The librettist, too, deserves a bow. She has performed a feat of compression. Osen’s libretto is dotted with interesting couplets. I wrote one of them down: ‘Can I trust you with this task?’ ‘Need you ask?’
“The title role, Jane Eyre, is a big soprano role, a tour de force. It was created—i. e., premiered—by Jennifer Zetlan. She can be proud of this night, and look back on it with great satisfaction. Outstanding in a smaller role was Katrina Thurman, another soprano, who played Blanche Ingram: bitchy, catty, well-nigh villainous…. “The composer, and the librettist, and the stage director—and the novelist, Charlotte Brontë—had me the whole way. The end was moving, as Jane returns to Rochester, in his wrecked physical state. I thought, ‘This opera, in its warmth, beauty, and goodness, is brave.
Crucial arias and scenes build to glittering radiance….big arias that end with flourishes and invite applause…. The cast members gave their all, especially Ryan MacPherson as Rochester and Thomas Meglioranza as St. John Rivers, a minister who appears later in the story. Sara Jobin conducted a colorful, bristling account of the score.
There were striking ensembles, as when Zetlan and McPherson sang with soprano Kimberly Giordano, as Mrs. Fairfax, his housekeeper, and mezzo-soprano Jessica Best, as Bessie, to close Act One, and when Rochester and the Ingrams—soprano Jessica Thompson as haughty Mrs. Ingram, baritone Thomas Meglioranza as Roderick, and soprano Katrina Thurman as Blanche, who would be Edward’s bride—discussed Donizetti operas…. “Kudos go to director Kristine McIntyre and designers Luke Cantarella (sets and video), Burke Brown (lighting) and Rachel Townsend (costumes).
One of the best things about the new operatic adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. Written by composer Louis Karchin, this opera is at once a retelling of the celebrated novel and something of a throwback to the way operas were written a century ago. The show was mounted in a handsome production at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.… “Mr. Karchin’s score eschews traditional arias for a shifting chromatic orchestral fabric. His score is inventive, melodic and leitmotivic, with dark themes indicating the lurking Bertha and a bright, rising melody for Jane. As Rochester, Mr. MacPherson gave an impressive and ardent performance…..[and] a star-making turn for Ms. Zetlan.