Bwogger and Opera Enthusiast Madysen Luebke went to the Black Box Opera Festival last night to soak in the sights and sounds of this time-honored musical tradition. If you missed it, there is another show tonight at 8 pm in the Glicker-Milstein Theater for $5. Tickets are available online, at TIC, or at the door.
I showed up to the Glicker-Milstein Theater Thursday night expecting an evening of opera, and boy was I surprised. The program for the evening was a mixture of four classic operatic scenes from the likes of Cosi Fan Tutte and Don Giovanni as well as four original operatic scenes by student composers. However, the student compositions were hardly on the same level as the classics they performed.
The classic scenes began with a modern take on Cosi Fan Tutte’s sisterly duet. The staging was fresh, with their declarations of love going to boys in a magazine instead of love interests the audience would never see. Director of this scene, Chris Browner, really created a world for the audience to step into, but also morphed this classic duet into a self-contained scene that made sense. A less successful scene Don Giovanni followed, with awkward staging that fizzled the chemistry between Don Giovanni and Zerlina. La Fille du Regiment came later and, although the pageant narrative felt contrived, the performances given by Angela Scorese, Stepan Atamian, and Esther Adams saved the day. The final classic scene that closed the entire show was the “Flower Duet” from Lakme performed by Christine Rosenblatt and Annalise Perricone, whose voices blended so perfectly and provided the perfect haunting melody to end the evening.
The first original scene of the evening came from composer Daniel Lazour with Bach and the Boy. The scene began awkwardly in silence and with talking instead of singing, but once the music picked up, we were whisked into the baroque world of a boy hitting puberty and losing his upper vocal range. The scene was very funny and effectively shifted back and forth between the clearly baroque-esque aria and more modern music for the dialogue. It was difficult to tell when Sophie Laruelle, as the boy, was supposed to be singing the aria badly, but the message came across through her acting as well as Lazour’s. I only wish that this scene and the other original compositions had not been subtitled, as they were in English and completely understandable. The subtitles in this scene especially put a damper on the humor, as the audience already knew what was coming next.
Solomon Hoffman and Nick Parker’s original scene, Codes followed, telling a story about Snowden finally being captured. The story was far too complex for a mere scene, with so many unnecessary plot elements such as the promise of sexual reassignment as the motivating factor for an inmate to lure Snowden back to the US. John Paul Bryan gave a strong performance of Snowden, adding energy to a scene that lacked excitement. The music, while beautiful, was fit more for a film score than for a dramatic scene, and the libretto felt forced into place to create a story that was too convoluted to follow.
Still Life, by Michael Gildin and Shelley Farmer opened the second act with the best acting of the evening. Based on a short story by Anton Chekhov, Gildin’s music tuly reflected the tension felt by Farmer’s character, Olga, as she loses both her husband and her lover.
The final original piece of the evening was Alex Porter’s Fragments, and fragmented was how it felt. A scene with four acts, it was apparent that the audience could not wait for it to end. Using Hamlet as a vehicle to say…something…about the nature of words, this scene was madness without any method in’t. The music was dissonant, which in itself is not a problem, but when paired with nonsensical libretto, created a one-dimensional world that was not accessible to the audience. Chloe Walton’s performance was the only aspect of the scene that added any level of excitement.
While some of the composition required editing, the caliber of all of the featured singers and the great variation in styles of operatic scenes still make this a show definitely worth checking out.
Definitely the Glicker-Milstein Theater via Shutterstock