A Farewell #Ham4Ham

Although my three-day vacation in New York was initially decided on so I could spare myself three of the 9 work days during which part of the metro route I take to work was shut down due to track work, I then decided my full day in New York would be Wednesday, so I could see a #Ham4Ham show, especially after I realized I’d be there for the final week before Lin-Manuel Miranda would leave the show.  By the time I was there, Leslie Odom, Jr and Phillipa Soo were also confirmed as off to hopefully reap some benefits from their newfound fame, although I also became aware of how early I’d need to get there, and started to wonder if it was worth it to stand in the heat for hours for a five-minute show.  But it was what I came to the city for, so Wednesday morning after breakfast off I went to the Richard Rogers.

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After thinking about it

I suppose the events of Sunday were best commented on by Lin-Manuel Miranda:

In many ways the massacre in Orlando was a reflection of many of America’s evils, inspired by racism and homophobia, allowed by terrible gun laws, and done by yet another violent young man driven by angry, narrow, intolerant beliefs, and even the group he did in the name of exists because of our actions. Perhaps is fitting that the answer to such ugliness was expressed by a man responsible for one of the best works of art that’s come out of America in recent years, and one that is very much American, mixing our historical lore with the modern music styles developed here, one an exercise in diversity from the son of Puerto Rican immigrants.

Met Opera Broadcast: Manon Lescaut

Giacomo Puccini’s opera on the famous fallen woman of French literature is the less famous adaptation of the tale, but when the Met broadcasted it yesterday, they talked about how it was his first hit.  Indeed, you can hear in it some general skill in writing music, although for this one he didn’t manage any super-memorable themes like his later operas contained.  He also simplified the story far more than Jules Massenet did in his more famous version, and took it out of its original time period, which left director Richard Eyre free to set it in another time period all together, and he went with occupied France, as being a France and a time period in which the plot more or less worked: when powerful people could do what they wanted and everyone else ignored terrible things around them in exchange for being able to live their lives if they were lucky.

Puccini’s version of Manon and her lover are also somewhat simpler than Massenet’s, though whether or not that’s a bad thing depends almost on how you look at it: on one hand, things are shallower, but on the other, their actions make a bit more sense psychologically, especially in the first half of the opera.  The best way to deal with it, perhaps, is to get the best vocal talent available to infuse into the characters all the feeling they can.  The Met, thankfully, lucked out when, having lost their original leading man, they managed to get Roberto Alagna to sing instead; he may be a little older than he was when movie theater audiences first saw him, but he can still do passion with the best of them.  Plus the younger Kristine Opolais proved able to hold her own with him.  The most effective part of the opera was the end, when all the fancy sets and costumes were removed, and they didn’t even attempt to explain where in the world the two characters were, just had them suffer and die and let us be sad over it.

Alagna and Opolais are going to be singing more Puccini to each other on the Met stage and screen as well; they’re also starring in the upcoming Madama Butterfly.  Unfortunately I’m going to be in Boston during that one.

The Acro-Cats at Synetic Theatre

Thursday night my sister and I an a couple of her friends went to see The Acro-Cats at the Synetic Theatre in Crystal City, at least once we established that said theatre was in Crystal City rather than Shirlington(good thing curtain wasn’t until 8!).  It’s a traveling show, which will have four more shows in Crystal City this weekend before moving on.  The management at the place wasn’t the best, but the show itself was lots of fun.

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Folger Theatre: Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead & Wolf Trap Opera: Il Nozze di Figaro

This weekend was a theater-going weekend for mom & me; yesterday we went to the Folger to see Rosencrantz & Guildernstern are Dead and today we went to the Wolftrap Barns to see Il Nozze di Figaro.  So a weekend of classics, both of which can carry themselves so long as the productions don’t mess with them too much.  And that was pretty much what happened in both shows.  Both productions also run one more weekend, though they may already be sold out.

Looking at the Folger program, the production of Rosencrantz & Guildernstern seemed the more ambitious undertaking.  They put the characters in an attic for the first act and changed the lights whenever the actual play of Hamlet was going on, increasing the feeling of surreality and unreality, and made a point of casting a young pair of actors as the two leads, whose ages they saw as being appropriate for the confusion felt by the two main characters(as well as being their likely age).  But while I’ve seen the three main characters portrayed excellently by college students in the past, these two might not have been quite yet ready for the heady philosophical stuff of the first act.  When the older Ian Merrill Peakes came out as the head player he pretty much stole the show from them.  They found things easier, though, when the climax hit, which is always an emotional thing, and was increased in this production by the cutting of final scene of Hamlet; we ended on Guildernstern’s final line.

The Wolf Trap Opera, of course, has long been a place where young performers are featured, so they, similarly, were the stars of Il Nozze di Figaro.  All of them were competent singers, though perhaps none of them stood out as particularly dazzling.  Also, like the young stars of Rosencrantz & Gildernstern, they often found the comedy a little harder to pull off than the drama; they all seemed to improve in the second half, especially Thomas Richards as the lead.  The production was not one intended to steal the show from its stars; they set the opera in 1880s Spain(paying attention, for once, to the fact that Seville is a Spanish town), which allowed for some fun costumes and Spanish dancing in the second half; otherwise the set was mostly built for function(with many useful doors) more than form.

The Folger concludes its season when Rosencrantz & Guildernstern closes next week, although the Wolf Opera is just beginning its summer-based season, with The Ghost of Versailles on next month.  That’ll be the real challenge, to pull off something that doesn’t have the genius of Mozart as a safety net.

Netflix’s Daredevil and the Met Opera’s Cav & Pag

Finished Daredevil just after breakfast yesterday, and spent the rest of the morning consuming the fandom that has sprung up around it, before going off to watch the Met Opera’s broadcast of Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci.  It was a very Catholic day.  Most of it was made pretty much by virtuoso performances.

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