So I’m sitting on the couch wishing the remote control wasn’t broken when The Wife comes to me and she says,
“I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“Oh, this again. Well, let’s see if you’ve figured out how this works. What’s the good news?”
“We’re going to the opera tonight!”
“Uh huh. And the bad news?”
“It’s the last opera of the season.”
“Well. OK. I suppose that is good news/bad news on Bizarro World.”
“Are you making some obscure comic book reference?”
“No. Bizarro Ronnie am not making obscure comic book reference. Bizarro Ronnie loves opera. Wishes season would never end.”
And so it was that we made our fourth and final trek of 2013 to the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis production of “The Kiss.” This was the show I had the least interest in — I knew nothing about it, The Wife knew nothing about it and there are no famous arias or characters from it. Worse, the title would lead one it believe it’s either a romance or — heaven forbid — a romantic comedy.
Turned out it was indeed a romantic comedy. A folk opera in two acts, “The Kiss,” first performed in 1876, was written by Bedrich Smetana and Eliska Krasnohorska. If those names are not familiar to you, you are not alone. Apparently it’s Smetana’s second most popular opera after “The Bartered Bride” — which I have never heard of either, but at least The Wife was familiar with it.
“The Kiss” is the story of a farmer, Lukas (Garrett Sorenson), who is denied the opportunity to marry his longtime love Vendulka (Corinne Winters) and is forced to marry another woman. When his wife dies, Lukas and Vendulka see an opportunity to start over.
They are determined to marry despite the warning of Vendulka’s father Paloucky Otec (Matthew Burns) that the pair are too stubborn and will one day get in an intractable argument. Sure enough, the first time Lukas tries to kiss his intended bride she refuses, demanding they wait until they are wed.
The couple argue (in song, of course) and it ends with Lukas going off to the bars to chase other women while Vendulka goes off to join a smuggling ring. (Now there’s a twist I bet you didn’t see coming). By the end of Act Two the young lovers have seen the error of their ways and are reunited in front of the whole town to great rejoicing and music.
“The Kiss” is a slight and surprisingly entertaining show. I wasn’t expecting much and my expectations were far exceeded. It’s still the lesser of the four productions put on this year but given what a strong season it was there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The story was simple and easy to follow with a couple of truly funny moments — at the height of the couple’s arguing, the father shows up in mid-audience and goes through the crowd singing an “I Told You So” song; the smugglers have an amusing tune they perform as they sneak through the woods. The music was delightful and the singers talented.
All in all, my first full season of opera was very entertaining. And that’s not Bizarro Ronnie talking.