I was struck by how differently we all approach the process of investigating a work and how we digest it. How our ideas add to the history of a piece.
|National Opera Week even hit Orlando, Land of Disney. Nice.|
Of course, the discussion doesn't need to stop here, and among the operas we looked at, here are some other queries and curiosities that arose:
A Streetcar Named Desire (Previn/Littell)
- Whether you look at the play or the opera by this name, the challenge is the same: do we keep doing the same Elia Kazan production over and over? If it works, why change it? Does the opera warrant a different look and feel than the famous play?
- There was a recent opera production in LA and Chicago, directed by Brad Dalton, which some called "semi-staged", but was no less successful. Perhaps the success was partly due to the fact that it kept the period look that audiences know so well, yet allowed a celebration of unencumbered singers and orchestra on the same stage?
- A 21st century setting could be New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, with TV and flash bulbs replacing Blanche's dim lamps. But would Previn's neo-romantic music withstand a hyper modern re-telling?
Glory Denied (Cipullo)
- What's true about this piece, and also a new veteran-themed piece The Long Walk, is that the subject matter is so specific and naturalistic that a large production is potentially unnecessary. Indeed, the productions of Glory Denied at Chelsea Opera and Fort Worth Opera Festival were very successful with singers in everyday period clothing on a spare unit set.
- Could we possibly move the piece to a different war setting, or have it reflect the universal plight of all veterans returning home? It seems that the emotional memories surrounding Vietnam and the seismic shifts in pop culture during that time trump any other setting for the piece. Perhaps new productions will turn their creativity to texture and ways of examining our culture's memories of that era.
|Glory Denied in Fort Worth|
Lizzie Borden (Beeson/Elmslie)
- Sarah Meyers illustrated a great way that the house and environment can play its own character and drive the story. But I couldn't help thinking of ways this same oppressive environment could be created outside of Victorian New England.
- Ms. Borden's arrest shocked her conservative society mostly because she was a young woman, and indeed her gender was both her chief defense and the reason for her acquittal. However, if she had a motive it was a yearning for independence: fiercely feeling entitled to more than a life controlled by either a father or a husband. What if the opera were set in a modern day place where women are still treated as property?
- Immediately I thought of the thriving stereotypes surrounding Asian women - small-boned, passive and seemingly incapable of independence, much less violence. Just as the Second Industrial Revolution was sweeping post-Civil war New England, the Industrial Tech Revolution is sweeping India and China today. Women's rights are coming to the forefront in these countries just as women's suffrage was a long battle in America in the late 19th century.
- So what if we were to confront these stereotypes with Lizzie as a "sacred cow" of India, a small and gentle woman willing to do anything to break free of oppressive social customs? Some images below illustrate how both the bovine and the beautiful can be intermixed, and are both worshipped and domesticated.
How can we lie these stories of American history down against the new global revolutions of the 21st century, just as Figaro's revolutionary France runs parallel to modern day American race and class relations?
In so doing, we not only address problems that face every society around the world, but on a practical level, we also create a more pressing need to fill casts with singers of color and gender diversity, a department in which American opera is sorely lagging.
|If only Reshma Shetty were a mezzo to play Lizzie!|
In their examination of The Cradle Will Rock, Corinne Hayes and Alison Moritz independently looked for ways Blitzstein's "labor-opera" from the 1930s can embrace the protests of a more modern and diverse population. I look forward to seeing how today's directors create new worlds with both classic pieces and new works, stretching the bounds of the people, places, and ideas opera can reach.