Lord knows, sometimes it takes an act of will to take the grandest of grand opera seriously. Enter La Gran Scena Opera Company, dedicated to the proposition that, when is all is said and done, the Wagners and Verdis and Puccinis of this world (and their librettists) have provided us all with plenty of splendid comic material and that there is really no need to elaborate on it very much to make it funny.
La Gran Scena Opera Company is a cabaret troupe, a company of men with astonishingly controlled falsetto voices who perform opera scenes in drag and who, since 1981, have been entertaining audiences around the world with the absurdities and the mannerisms of the opera stage. They opened a nine-performance stand at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater last night with a benefit for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, playing to a less-than-capacity house, but one that was gleefully receptive. The real humor in this show resides in the commentary of Bruce Hopkins as Miss Sylvia Bills, a thinly disguised Beverly Sills without the New York accent, who relates the plots of "Cavalleria Rusticana" ("a sort of 'All My Children' with garlic"), "Il Trovatore," "Aida" and the rest with a sort of arch wryness, a lot of gay humor and a great sense of timing.
The scenes themselves, liberally laced with horseplay and broad innuendo, rely on the fact that these divas cavorting on the stage are really guys in wigs and padding, and the humor in that gets old pretty fast.