Giant steps are what you take … walking home from Opera on the Moon

This was my first English-language opera. I’ve attended other operas (Kate is a fan of Verdi, and that is the limit of my opera experience, lots of Verdi), but I’d never been to an opera where I understood what was going on without a teletype screen.

And I loved it.

To be clear: the characters were flat, the plot was predictable, and I discovered where the idea of the “stinger” (the two or three note music sting that follows a punchline in old-timey comedy shows) must have come from. Acknowledging all of this is like complaining about the color of the cup that holds the malt you ordered from the Portland Malt Shop.

What matters are the voices — the voices as instruments and the bodies that bring those characters to life in and through and against the act of singing. And these performers sang well (especially Buonafede and Lisetta, though again, I know little of opera as a profession), but more to the point, they played their characters with richness. At moments, you could tell that they could tell their characters were inherently depthless (baffled by the belief that they had been transported to the moon, for example). And so their facial expressions layered both heartfelt emotion and irony into their performance at exactly the right moments.

At the end of the performance, at the crescendo of the action, as the central figure representing old-style domination over daughters, maids, and entrepreneurial inventors admits he is out-thunk by the folks whom he presumes to master,and as each of them takes a share of his property to pursue happiness without being under his yoke…
…the characters sing while dancing “gangnam style” — the Psy tune that as I understand it is a bit of social class critique in Korean pop music. Was this young students having fun or was it a conscious choice to echo that kind of class satire? (I’m hoping a little of both.)

It’s that kind of double-voicedness that I have to come to realize brings a second layer of joy to the opera. I’d never been to a UMD opera before, but I will be going again.

No Comments

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Read previous post:
Where in Duluth?

Another installment of the exciting game in which the person who is the first to identify where the photo was...