Service Provider (Washington National Opera, American Opera Initiative, 2015)

  • *Selected for Fort Worth Opera's 2017 Frontiers Showcase

THE WASHINGTON POST:

"The crowd-pleaser was “Service Provider” by Christopher Weiss and John de los Santos, about a couple whose anniversary dinner in a restaurant is compromised by the wife’s constant texting and the husband’s lover’s subsequent intrusion."


DC METRO THEATER PRESS:

"Service Provider is a portrait of a modern marriage, played out in texts and asides. The duet “Every Box Checked” hits every note in the libretto by John de los Santos.

... [the character Dallas'] aria about the evening specials is a thing of beauty. The music by Christopher Weiss begins and ends with a ringing cell phone and that motif continues from the woodwinds to the piano to the xylophone in a surprisingly classic score. This was just hilarious beginning to end – turning an experience we’re all painfully familiar with into art."


PARTERRE BOX:

"Service Provider, by Christopher Weiss and John de los Santos, turned in a crowd-pleasing farce for the finale, replete with infidelity, bad cellphone etiquette, and a haughty waiter. [Daryl Freedman had another opportunity to shine here, well-paired with the warm baritone of Hunter Enoch, seen earlier this year in as Morales in WNO’s Carmen. Another Carmen alum, Rexford Tester, gamely took on the florid writing for the waiter character."


FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM:

"...you can't accuse the participants in the Fort Worth Opera's 2017 Frontiers program of producing boring material.

'Service Provider,' by Christopher Weiss and John de los Santos, is a witty sendup of America's obsession with cellphones."


BRIGHTEST YOUNG THINGS:

"However, the best opera of the night was the last one, Service Provider. Watching people sing their text messages out loud is way more enjoyable than you would think, and Rexford Tester, who played the waiter Dallas, was delightful."


COMMUNITIES DIGITAL NEWS:

"Of the three short operas premiered, “Service Provider” was for us at least the most fully realized in terms of plot, character, action and music.

In celebration of their third anniversary as a married couple, Beau (Hunter Enoch) has taken his wife Autumn (Daryl Freedman) to dinner at a fancy restaurant they’ve both apparently enjoyed before. But a big problem in their relationship becomes obvious almost from the start. Autumn seems physically conjoined with her smartphone, casually and thoughtlessly interrupting a supposedly romantic occasion again and again by giving primacy to whatever garbage demands her immediate response. Beau’s justifiable irritation continues to grow.

It’s at this point that librettist John de los Santos’ sophisticated and efficient narrative really takes off, as two more key characters are introduced: Dallas (Rexford Tester), the skilled, but condescending waiter and a sexy single diner named Charlene (Mandy Brown).

It’s a testament to Mr. de los Santos’ skill that he’s able to compact this all-too-familiar urban tale—including its additional complications—into a functional and satisfying plot. While his characters are a bit of a cliché, this is intentional as we’re dealing with a well-crafted satire in this opera and not simply a standard story line.

But Mr. de los Santos also contributes in two additional key areas. In a short period of time, he crisply and efficiently defines each character, while piling on additional characters and complications so quickly and efficiently that he’s able to bring his story quickly to the boiling point leading to a decisive climax and a satisfying denouement. He also provides efficient dialogue and verse forms with plenty of vowels, giving composer-collaborator Christopher Weiss a load of great musical material to work with.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Weiss was in turn inspired to provide the snappiest, most sharply defined music of the evening, helping flesh out the opera’s characters and providing the best single set piece of the night in which Dallas—in rapid-patter Gilbert & Sullivan mode—delivers a hymn of praise to food, to his chef and to his superior tableside skills. As astonishing as it is funny, it’s written, composed and sung like a mini-version of Figaro’s famous aria, “Largo al factotum.”

Of the three mini-operas presented Wednesday, it’s clear at least to this reviewer that “Service Provider” comes the closest by far in terms of being ready for prime time. Neither its story nor its hair-trigger characters ever flag; its instantly recognizable narrative remains humorously on target; the opera’s pace has a way of auto-accelerating right on schedule; and perhaps most important, its score pumps up and defines each character and defines each plot twist in a way that proved satisfying to Wednesday’s large and appreciative audience."