Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: Greek

Chicago Opera Vanguard

Anyone unfamiliar with opera, especially modern opera, should take the opportunity this weekend to see a gem. Chicago Opera Vanguard is performing Mark-Anthony Turnage's Greek this weekend and it is wonderful.

The story is a modern telling of the Oedipus story set in post-war Britain. Director Eric Reda’s staging in the St. Paul Arts Center is brilliant. The performance space is a converted church, but designer John Sundling has incorporated many of the building’s unique characteristics (including the portrait of Jesus Christ over the alter) into his design to make it look like a found space. The pews and stage area are strewn with junk from old televisions to left over 2x4’s. The whole effect is chaotic and brilliantly compliment’s the production. And while the hair and costumes are a little outrageous, they do an excellent service to both the story and the world created by the scenic design.

The four soloists (each of whom plays several roles) are exceptional. Each has a strong voice that is able to navigate the score’s difficult tonality. Combined with a powerful orchestra, they are able to capture the raw of the emotion caused by the fusion of music and story without a hitch. Because of the acoustics of the church, there are a couple moments where the diction lapses, but overall the leads have little trouble matching power for power with the brilliant orchestra.

This production serves the tradition of opera performance while also being edgy and different. The show is definitely an experience and well worth the price of admission.

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