Right now a lot of longtime RReport readers are thinking, “Didn’t opera season just end? Ronnie didn’t write about the opera once. Did he not go? How did he get out of it? And didn’t the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival just end? He didn’t write about that either. Did he not go? How did he get out of it?”
OHMIGOD! DID SOMETHING HAPPEN TO LAURA? IS SHE IN A COMA? IS SHE DEAD? WHAT HAS HAPPENED? SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE?!!
Calm down, people. Laurie’s fine. We did indeed attend the opera and Shakespeare this month, it’s just that it’s been such a crazy, busy month (what with Shakespeare and the opera and a dozen other things) that I haven’t had the time — or the motivation — or the strength — to report on these things.
My apologies that these reviews are coming too late for you to make an informed decision as to whether to attend these shows yourself, but let’s be honest, if you’re coming to me for advice on whether to see an opera or a Shakespeare play, you’re seriously ill-informed.
And so, in the order that I saw them…
Our first opera of the season and I honestly don’t remember much about it. The wife really liked it. It’s a classic — music by Guiseppe Verdi, so it’s good that I saw it even if it didn’t leave much of an impression.
I do remember we saw this with Christine and Emma and that was a good thing because it helps to get through TWO INTERMISSIONS if you have other people to talk to.
Hold on while I read the synopsis…Oh, now I remember. So, in comic books there’s this movement where people get all upset if the hero’s girlfriend dies in an attempt to build up the hero. Let me tell you something, comic books didn’t invent this trope – it happens in opera all the time. “La Traviata” is about a courtesan who falls in love with a guy and they run off to the country but his dad doesn’t approve so she breaks them up and then she gets sick and they are reunited on her deathbed and you know the rest because it’s a tired, old plot. Although maybe it was new when this was first performed in 1853.
Good show but probably my least favorite of the four (I think it was Laurie’s favorite, so there you go).
Orfeo & Euridice
Remember what I said about how many operas feature men grieving over dead/dying girlfriends? Well, that’s what this show is all about. It starts out with Orfeo lamenting the death of his beloved Euridice. His cries reach the ears of Amore, the goddess of love, and she lets him go to the underworld and bring his wife back — there are conditions, of course, that complicate matters.
I enjoyed this one because (a) I’m a sucker for stories based on ancient myths; (b) it was the shortest of this season’s shows; (c) there was only 1 intermission (d) I was amused by the weird, joyous, colorful, totally out-of-place hippy-trippy ending that was tacked onto it.
On the downside, because the plot was so thin they filled the space with dancing. It was decent dancing but, still — dancing.
An American Soldier
Every year Opera Theatre of Saint Louis includes a new opera in the set of four. This year it was this show based on the true story of Danny Chen, a U.S. soldier who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while serving in Afghanistan. He had been brutally treated by his fellow soldiers before his death.
As you might imagine, this was a very powerful and painful show to watch. The story begins in the courtroom as the ghost of Danny watches helplessly as his superior officer is put on trial. Things then flash back and fourth to Danny with his girlfriend and mother, to his brief, tortured time in the military.
I was impressed by this show but it really was 2.5 hours of unrelenting tragedy and anguish.
Romeo & Juliet
We took a brief pause from an opera sandwich last weekend to attend this year’s Shakespeare Festival St. Louis performance of The Bard’s classic “Romeo & Juliet.” (We literally attended opera Friday/Shakespeare Saturday/Opera Sunday. I don’t recommend that much concentrated culture to anyone. I spent my rare free time watching “Luke Cage Season 2” just to decompress.)
It was a good show but long. I think the problem with R&J is that everyone knows the story and knows the beats so you just want to get on with it — balcony scene, fight, poison — but these people just won’t… stop… talking.
Granted, that’s an issue with all of Shakespeare, but most of the time you’re not familiar enough with the story to know what’s coming next and so you sit there and take it. But with R&J I’m just sitting there thinking “take the poison! take the poison already!”
But then, maybe I was just tired.
We wrapped up “June: Month of Culture” with a Sunday night performance of “Regina.” I actually enjoyed this show even if I did begin snoring early in Act 1 (I told you I was tired). Once I was nudged back into consciousness, I did get into it.
It’s about a woman who is working with her brothers on a big business deal. They need the cooperation of her ailing husband but he’s not interested. Toss in various subplots involving other family members.
The performers, set design and costumes were impressive, but that’s true of all the OTSL shows. “Regina” isn’t your typical opera. It’s more of a musical/opera hybrid. There is a lot of spoken dialogue (unheard of in most opera) and the singing was more song oriented than just people singing dialogue. It also featured a variety of musical styles, from ragtime to gospel to musical to opera. It was different. I liked it. Almost enough to forgive the TWO INTERMISSIONS.
And now, for the first time in weeks, I have nothing to do on a weekend. I would like to thank Hollywood for not releasing anything this week except “Uncle Drew,” thus giving me time to get caught up.