Monday, August 13, 2018

Glimmerglass

Thursday we arrived at Glimmerglass Opera Festival for a long weekend. We were joined by David's sister Peggy and her partner Jim. For our first night we were also joined by David's choirmaster, Christian, and his husband Chris.

The first opera was Rossini's The Barber of Seville. As we have found previously, Glimmerglass finds the best singers available for it's casts. 

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David Walton as Count Almaviva was sensational. He is tall, handsome, and has a wonderful tenor voice with high notes to spare.


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Joshua Hopkins as Figaro was splendid. He has a good voice but tends to pull it back a bit on his high F's in his first aria.


 
Dale Travis was Doctor Bartolo and managed the rapid fire diction of his arias with ease.

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Emily D'Angelo was excellent as Rosina; a wide easy range and good coloratura for her difficult arias.


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Timothy Bruno as Don Basilio nearly stole the show with La Calunia.

Stage hands/chorus moved bits of scenery on and off the stage. It was a charming production.

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Alexandria Shiner has a large beautiful voice as Berta. Sensational top!

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Friday evening brought a fantastic performance of The Cunning Little Vixen by Leos Janacek in an 
English translation by Kelley Rourke. Except for Eric Owens as the Forester, it might as well have been in Czech as far as getting the words went. A couple of the other men were understandable but the women, while having good voices were not there diction-wise. Of course the fact that their parts were written very high made it difficult to begin with. My theory has always been that our ears are not used to hearing speech that high so that the men always have an easier time coming through than the women.


Image result for eric owens  Eric Owens

It is a wild ballet/opera (I'm not sure which) with a fabulous score. The set  by Ryan McGettigen and the costumes by Eric Teague were wonderful as were the direction and choreography by L. Loren Meeker and Eric Sean Fogel. Joseph Colaneri was the excellent conductor.

I loved the event but had to keep watching the super-titles to keep track of what was going on. I doubt that even in the original language the women could have been understood.

I have spent too many years teaching clear diction to singers to accept what was happening. I was brain-washed by Madeleine Marshall years ago at Union Seminary and she became a dear friend. We did workshops together. So my tolerance for mushy diction is small.

Composers need to learn that writing a lot of text on very high notes for the female voice just doesn't work.

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Saturday was our last event, West Side Story. I guess I have become jaded because when I see revivals of Broadway shows that I saw in their original form I'm disappointed. I saw the original production in 1957 and a reprise in the 90's.

None of the singers had the Broadway 'edge' that I am accustomed to. The setting was cumbersome and  the choreographer had too many things going on during the love duets. 

I was underwhelmed.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Chinese Lady

The Chinese Lady, a new play by Lloyd Suh, was put together much like minimalist music, wherein the same passage of notes is repeated over and over until you cry 'I GIVE UP!'.

The play is based on a real person who was brought to this country in the 1830's, supposedly the first Chinese woman to be seen in this country. She was put on view twice a day and walked around on her tiny bound feet and spoke in Chinese about Chinese customs. She was supposed to be here for two years but was kept here for many more than that, eventually touring the country in her 'show'. At one point she was bought by P.T. Barnum and was a part of his Freak Show.

I am particularly sensitive about Freak Shows since one of my uncles, who was born with just two fingers on the ends of his arms, was once in one of these and came to Battle Creek when I was a kid. Mother and Dad took us to a store front on Capitol Avenue and there was Uncle Ralph, along with three hundred pound 'Baby Betty' and a few other unusual folks on display. Uncle Ralph had trained himself to be a glass blower, worked during the war doing war work, often worked in carnivals, along with my other uncle Paul. I guess the Freak Show was all he could get at that time.

So I have some idea what is like to have to resort to this type of employment to make a living. We knew that he was disadvantaged with his incomplete hands, but he did spectacular work with his glass blowing and weaving. Mother had several of his works on display. I remember one winter he stayed with us and sat up his equipment in the kitchen so the neighbors could come and watch him work. He was an amazing man who made the most of his talent in spite of seemingly impossible odds.

So I feel for the Chinese Lady, the person, not the play, which the Berkshire Eagle described as 'a screed, masquerading as a play'. I agree,



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Shannon Tyo played the part of the Lady.


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Daniel K. Isaac was Atung, her assistant.

It is a very sad commentary on the times but not a very good play.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hello Dolly!

For some reason Lucas Hnath felt the need to write a sequel to Henrick Ibsen's A Doll's House. We saw his A Doll's House, Part 2 last night at Barrington Stage.

I haven't yet figured out why someone wants to take someone else's  play and characters and try to keep the story going. King Lear, Part 2??  It was said at the time (1876) that when Nora slammed the door and left her husband Torvald, it was a slam heard 'round the world. A sort of early 'Women's Lib'.

In this play Hnath brings Nora back fifteen years later to try to get Torvald to sign divorce papers, which he never filed. Since Ibsen never told us what happened to Nora everything now is conjecture.

Nora and Torvald argue over all the things they should have argued over when she was still there, then she and her daughter do the same thing. In the end she walks out and slams the door again.

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Laila Robins was excellent as Nora,gorgeous in a sensational purple dress.



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Mary Stout nearly stole the show as Anne Marie, the nanny who raised Nora's children after she left. 

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Christopher Innvar was Torvald.

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Ashley Bufkin was the daughter Emmy.

The set was simple. A door in the middle of the set and two chairs. 

I'm not sure what Ibsen would have to say about the play. I felt it was unnecessary.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Let them eat Cake!

Last night David and I saw The Cake at Barrington Stage 2.  It is a play about a woman, famous for her cake baking, who must make a decision to make a wedding cake for two women, one of whom she is very close to.

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Debra Jo Rupp plays the baker with great energy verging on hysteria at times.

Menuma Ceesay and Virginia Vale are the two women.

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Ceesay is the intellectual, matter of fact one who simply wants to get married and doesn't really like cake.

Vale









Vale is the local southern girl who wants the wedding to be all that her late mother would have wanted. They quarrel quite a bit almost break up. She wants Della to bake their wedding cake. Della, for religious reasons, doesn't want to do this and comes up with various excuses not to do t.

Della tries to reason with them both, discouraging their marriage. Her own marriage is in bad shape. Her husband, played by Douglas Rees, is not romantically inclined. She tries to seduce him into having sex unsuccessfully.

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After much to and fro she finally bakes the cake for them.

David enjoyed the play more than I did. With the recent Supreme Court decision about his subject, I felt the play was a bit dated and was too busy with side issues.