I'll be the first to admit the idea of schlepping out to a high school auditorium in El Cerrito to attend an opera isn't my idea of an optimally spent Saturday night, but it was actually an easy trek via BART and the auditorium was quite impressive. However, that's not worth making much of a fuss over so try this instead- we went over there to check out West Edge Opera for the first time and came away really impressed with the boldness and talent displayed. So put your prejudices aside and go see the American premiere of Fabrizio Corlone's Bonjour M. Gauguin, because it's likely to be one of the more rewarding and quirkier things you'll see this year. Director Mark Streshinksy and choreographer Yannis Adoniou have gathered a very strong cast, even if singing isn't always the primary strength of some members. Between the images of Gauguin's work which frame and set the scenes, the visual impact of the very physically appealing cast, and the curious, alluring but challenging music of Corlone, Gauguin took me by surprise in a most pleasant way in this intelligent, thoughtful production.

I'd even go so far as to say it appears Opera Parallele may have some East Bay competition. That's very high praise, and great news for the Bay Area. Highly recommended, and only two performances left this coming weekend, April 12 & 14. Just go- trust me.