Monday, December 12, 2011

''Opera Scenes'' Review

If this look oddly framed, it's because i wrote it first for my music forum, and then decided there might be other opera fans here]]

along with its biannual full opera, the  new  england conservatory of music also does free student performances of opera scenes, and i try to make these when the scenes seem at all interesting. this had 3. one was a full 1-act

opera, a very early bizet [he was 18 and composed it for a prize. competitors had to compose a score to a pre-written libretto. it was fun; i always love it when they perform complete pieces. it's called 'dr. miracle,' and is a slapstick farce about a young soldier in love with the mayor's daughter, who is in love with him but whose father hates him, though the mother favors the marriage. so to get to the girl, as in  ''barber of seville'', the hero comes to the house in a sequence of idiotic disguises till the father eventually gives in. it seemed more like a precursor to musical comedy than opera, and reminded me of some of the early-talkies screwball comedies. the music was fun with no hints that i could pick up of bizet's later, famous works, '' carmen'' or ''the pearl fishers.'

next was a short scene from a modern opera, carlisle ford's 'susannah,' of which i'd never heard, an opera based on the biblical story, transferred to 19th century rural america. i liked the music, which used some folk-music [real, old-fashioned folk music] sound and generally was more evocative for me than much modern music. but here the fact of it being just a scene lessened my enjoyment somewhat. i'd like to experience the whole opera one day.

the highlight for me was also a scene from a modern opera-- the beginning of 'miss havisham's fire.' the history of opera, which i read later, is weird. domenick argento first composed it as a one-act, one-woman piece for beverly sills, then got persuaded to expand it to a full-length opera, set with flashbacks in an imaginary inquest on miss h's death [she being the character in Dickens's 'great expecttions']. i loved the one act version which he had again adapted to work for the conservatory production last year, so that 3 different singers did miss haversham as an old woman, young woman, and middle aged woman. last night they did something different, an early scene from the long version, in which her aged servant recalls the wedding day, in which we see an ecstatic girl dressed in her wedding gown, waiting for the groom to come, and then getting the fateful letter. it was very powerful, wonderfully and heartbreakingly sung and acted by a singer named soyoung park [a great name in context, b/c of her own youth and her great depiction of a young bride's joyful anticipation and then her  tragic breakdown]. it presupposes a knowledge of the dickens tale, which i think would be no problem for most of the audience.

the 'staging'  of all three pieces was modern, but only in the sense of minimalist props and contemporary clothing, which may have at least partially belonged to the singers themselves. so it wasn't bothersome [as a rule, i hate 'concept' productions]. there was no orchestra, just a piano, but the guy did his job well. and the kids were as they usually are at these things terrific.

not bad for the price...



Baysage said...

My wife and I try to make HD and surround sound presentations of the Met in a local theater during the season. We can never make all the operas--usually about half of them--but they are one of the greatest bargains on the planet: $20 apiece for the best seats in the house. Are these performances available to you up where you are? They should be.

karen lindsey said...

hi tom,

happy new year.....

HD performances are wonderful, and they are indeed available here. sadly, i don't go to them b/c movies in theatres give me migraines. but i may try again; it's been 20 years since i've risked it. a music-forum friend told me recently that he had the same problem, but 2 things have helped. one is that it hasn't happened to him since he's been on SSRI's for depression, and the other is that he sits in the last row of the theatre where there is some light coming in. i never thought about the latter, and i'm also on an ssri, so when i get back from holland in the spring and can risk a few days' illness, i may try it. most movies don't interest me anyway, but these do. and there's another good thing for me re the HD performances, the fact most of them eventually turn up on pbs.

i'm really bummed about the closing down of opera boston, which leaves us here with only one regular opera company. luckily other operas pop up in semistaged or concert form from various other music companies....

Baysage said...

I didn't know movies could bring on migraines. You learn something new every day. This is a pretty bad malady to have. Susan and I go to many movies, so I'm sure glad neither of us have this problem.