Arts & Events

A French Don Quixote for Alameda’s Island Opera

John McMullen, ATCA
Monday March 06, 2017 - 10:57:00 PM

Two Bay Area outstanding voices are performing at the Elk’s Ballroom in Alameda. Igor Viera and Buffy Baggott, both of whom have played featured roles at San Francisco opera, are well-known to East Bay audiences. Viera plays Sancho Panza and Baggott is cast in the role of Dulcinee in Massenet’s version of the Don Quixote tale in French entitled “Don Quichotte.” 

Viera directs and brings a comic sensibility to the piece with hobbyhorses attached with suspenders (it’s traditional from the medieval Mummers Plays) to using a 1940’s animated cartoon of the windmill tilting scene.  

The story is taken not from Cervantes but from Jacques Le Lorrain. In it Dulcinee is not the town whore but the local queen who sends the knight on a quest to retrieve her jewel. Baggett’s mezzo fills the hall and her grand presence is that of a queen. 

William Pickersgill as Don Quichotte plays a most-reserved chevalier. His melodic bass, while a pleasure to hear, does not fill the hall as the other two leads do. He definitely looks the part. Quixote is unquestionably an ironic character, senile and delusional who has constant hallucinations, on an undefined quest to defend the helpless and destroy the wicked. Charlie Chaplin said that at the heart of comedy is pain. Were Mr. Pickersgill to show the Knight’s own brand of crazy, it could rouse a laugh or two and be from the same world as the others while, by contrast, heighten the pathos. 

The chorus is amazing for a small opera company, and we wish we would hear more from them. The small orchestra conducted by Philip Kuttner is perfect for the small hall. 

The Elk’s Ballroom’s architecture is a good reason to visit, as well as to hear a few excellent voices. There is a full bar and café seating as well as regular with refreshments available 

Island City Opera’s “Don Quichotte” 

Elks Ballroom, 2255 Santa Clara, Alameda (off Park Street). 

Sunday Matinees March 5 & 12 at 2:00 pm, and Friday March 10 at 7:30 

Running time 2:45 

Tickets, info at or (510) 263-8060