Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Chicago Opera Theatre

In an unusual turn, we move to review an opera, and my was this an experience.

Baroque Opera, however, does not resemble the iconic Classical and Romantic operas that we are more familiar with. Indeed, operas from the Baroque era are really the prototype of what we've grown to love where the music figures in even more than the storyline. Also, the male lead would unusually be sung by a castrato - something that, thankfully, doesn't exist any more.

George Frederic Handel's Orlando unfortunately doesn't have much of a plot. The hero, Orlando, is in love with one girl, who is in love with his enemy, and the enemy is being pined after by a country girl. The enemy and girl #1 run off together, Orlando pursues and so does girl #2. Orlando kills the couple but Zoroastro, the sort of narrator-sort of confidant, brings them back to life. Orlando decided that he is going to be happy and the opera ends. Overall, not a very rousing theme.

Chicago Opera Theatre's production was beautiful. Set in a made up world straight out of a modern painting (the chose 1940's noir as their setting, but it came across with some pastoral influences), there can be no complaints against the show except for the choice of libretto/score. The design was stunning but not lavish. Set pieces moved to form the various settings from military headquarters, to cottage to trees while evoking Roman columns. The lighting design was stark but well modeled using the Harris Theatre's dance capabilities to its advantage. Stealing the show was the young, Canadian, coloratura soprano Andriana Churchman.

All in all I would count it as a strong performance of a weak piece that, despite huge ovations from the opera faithful, could have been skipped.

Happy Birthday: Ben Jonson (1572-1637) and Athol Fugard

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