Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A reunion, small theatre, and a setting?

Last month I had mentioned the Greenville (SC) Light Opera Works' performance of Der Schauspieldirektor, K. 486 ("The Impresario"), an operetta set in the narrow hall outside the Warehouse Theatre in the Upstate city. Now because of chicanes set up on Interstate 26 and on Interstate 385, I arrived 50 minutes later than expected so I had barely a seat to find in the small 70-seat makeshift hall with the glass windows facing the darkening sky, with ten minutes to go before the operetta of 40 minutes (and a three-hour drive overall; the two sopranos were one and a half and three and a half hours, respectively, from the city).

As I noted in my conversations with Heather Payne last month, the names she informed me of the characters were Madames Goldentrill (a precocious young soprano, originally referenced as Mme Herz) and Silverpeal (an aging Prima Donna, Mlle Silberklang). The programme called them Miss Sweetsong and Madame Silverklang, respectively, for the sopranos Lindsay Hilliard (Goldentrill) and Serena Hill (Silverpeal; Miss Hill was the last-minute replacement after the original fell ill one month before the opera was to take place; those who read the blog should know the importance of the 32-year old who shares Leontyne Price's (and also Rep. Marsha Blackburn's) hometown to one of our writers). Actor Bruce Meahl, a member of the area's theatre community, was "Herr Frank" (aka The Impresario), while baritone Daniel Marlatt was the assistant. Tenor Jonathan Kilpatric was the aristocratic playboy, Herr Eiler, who funds the opera. Interesting for this narrow setting the spoken parts are removed, and Eiler is a tenor instead of being just a spoken part. Also, Eiler's lover in the original, Mme Pfeil, was replaced by Mme Goldentrill, and the actresses in the original script weren't included.

As it was set in current-time Wien, where Frank laments art, music, and the economy, Buff presents plans for a new opera to be financed by Eiler. Frank and Buff are set as rag-tags, as was seen in their unkempt casual clothing, while the banker Buff was intended to be set, as director Jenna Tamisiea (stage director) noted, as a "Donald Trump" character, replete with black suit and pink tie (but no bad hair). That interesting move had me pondering what was happening because I don't think this operetta should have been set in 2010 Wien. The evidence of the small office, golf club, coffeemaker, and cell phones made it clear we were in a contemporary office building with glass walls and in the modern settings, as were the limbo games in the office using the putter as the limbo stick. That reminded me of a half round played by a soprano in Figaro, and that I started 2010 with a full round of golf on New Year's Day.

Also I read the syopsis online (see below link) and noted Silverpeal sings French arias while Goldentrill sings Italian. The strange irony is my years of sitting with her, watching her sing, the majority of what I know of hearing the Squirrel sing has been mostly Italian (The Consul, Le Nozze di Figaro, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica), although I've heard her sing Austrian works (Schubert, Haydn, Mozart -- must disclose that I was a tenor choir member in the Haydn choral production) and British works (Händel). The battle of the divas over pay results in enough kayfabe that Ric Flair could choreograph, but would be better off if Rob (Coo Coo) Concannon had choreographed the fight sequences!

A few reflections from the opera:

My seat was front-row and I saw the pianist on the right-hand side. Marion Sprott played for me in my first recital gigs in 2003 and again in 2004. Sometimes when the dialogue was extremely funny with Silverpeal's singing I had to keep my eyes on the pianist to see her reaction -- but that's only natural when you've sung with her. The Impresario sounded too much like modern liberals and Barack Obama in a "hate profits" mentality. The morals of the story are also removed, which was questionable. There's irony in Silverpeal, an aging role, because of The Consul (Miss Hill was Magda Sorel, while Magda's mother was Jami Rhodes, a mezzo, in that 2003 production, again, I have ties to Miss Rhodes). The acoustics could be a little better, naturally, since it was a keyboard and not a genuine piano used by Miss Sprott. Meeting a few stars of the Figaro production I had attended in March who wanted to see the Squirrel (she is very popular in this region; what a gem) in a performance that's a 90-minute drive shows her staying power a decade after she first set foot in the area. And seriously, I don't think either soprano is a diva in real life.

But you can't go wrong seeing your old accompanist for the first time since your 2004 gig with her, and seeing a few old friends was even sweeter. Celebrating seven years to that first recital setting with her, and 20 years since your first celebrity encounter, with old friends made the crazy 90-minute drive to find the Ingles Gas Express (only fuel station in that region that sold fuel without the stupid state expansion of government entity, aka the Education Al Qaeda, open at 9 PM) meant only a cold hot dog and a sandwich could be purchased as I had to make the 2 1/2 hour drive home to run in two races -- a 12k and a 5k -- the next morning, setting a new 12k record for me by going under 1:20 for the first time.

Oh do I want to sing in some choral productions and even an opera!

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