On Stage: 27

So I’m sitting on the couch reading an article about how you shouldn’t use the word “so” when The Wife comes to me and she says

“I have sad, sad news.”

“Harrison Ford broke his leg making the new ‘Star Wars’ movie?”

“No, tonight is the last opera of the season.”

“How will I face the rest of the summer?”

“Just get dressed.”

And so it was that we made our last trek of the year to the Loretto-Hilton Center for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ performance of “27.” This is a new opera by Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek based on the life of Gertrude Stein, an American author and self-proclaimed “genius” living in Paris. If there’s one thing I learned from this show, it’s that Gertrude Stein was a bit full of herself.

This was the opera I was most excited about when I read about it in the program. Not because I’m a Gertrude Stein fan or because I’m a proponent of new opera. No, I was excited about “27” because it had a 90-minute run time and no intermission! Entertain me and get me home early. That’s all I ask.

twentyseven-325pxThe show opens during the roaring ’20s in the salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus where Stein (Stephanie Blythe) holds court with her secretary/wife Alice B. Toklas (Elizabeth Futral). At her salon she cultivates the talents of other geniuses such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The men (and wives) who travel through 27 Rue de Fleurus are played by Theo Lebow, Tobias Greenhalgh and Daniel Brevik.

The show may run half as long as other operas but it’s not short on story. The five-act structure covers Stein’s early days with the artists, the first world war, her time with writers, the second world war, and her death and resurrection (OK, that last part may have been artistic license).

The story is tight and compelling, the music is sharp and lively, the set design is simple and clever. The five performers do terrific work. Blythe is clearly the star but her costars shine just as bright.

“27” concludes its run tonight. http://www.opera-stl.org/

 

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