Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Modern Opera in Provo....

Now, don't go running away just yet. This is important. I believe that opera can and will thrive where people are willing to accept it and they are given the opportunity to experience it. Even modern opera. So what is this all about? A Parking Lot for Hyacinths, an experimental opera by Logan Hone and Jesse Nicholas Quebbeman-Turley. Many an epic quest has been embarked upon by the hero (tenor) of an opera. If we but look back upon the great epics of the operatic tradition we find Orpheus ever in search of his Eurydice, Siegfried in search of something to fear (failing miserably, I might add), Papageno in search of something to eat (I had to get a baritone in there somewhere). Well, when a Star Queen comes to you in a dream and bestows upon you silver acorns, you have to go out and figure out how to plant them. This is exactly the situation in which James Jeremiah Johnson finds himself. He's a student of city planning who's fed up with the the lack of respect for nature and dadgummit he's going to change that. He's going to restore nature to the city even if he has to travel out to the desert (?) to find out how. I'll admit, the premise of the opera is a little strange, but this is modern opera. What did you expect? I won't tell you the whole story in the interest of avoiding a spoiler.
Let's talk a little about the cast of this opera. First of all, I have to praise the wonderful usage of chorus as both narrative body and as passive onlookers in certain scenes. Their part, though musically minimalist, was finely woven into the fabric of the opera. The hero of the opera was performed by tenor Elijah Hancock. I feel bad for performers of the role because of the strange tessitura in which it forces the tenor to sing. Hancock's voice was, though not overtly operatic, well suited to the role and made the character very endearing. Carli Hansen was Professor Hauptmann, the minimalist city planning professor who desires no connection to nature and thrives off of getting to the point. Minimalist in both stage business and musical line, this role was really nothing to smirk at, giving life to a character with so little vibrancy. The girlfriend Natalie, my favorite character of the evening, was powerfully portrayed by Michelle Alexander. As a struggling artist, her character spoke to many of us in the audience, whether we are actually struggling or not. Her aria was my favorite part of the composition. Alexander's voice lent a perfect amount of power to the character. One last singer who made an impression was Olivia Custodio who played three different characters in the course of the opera. She was certainly the busiest singer and yet brought life to all three roles making them equally interesting.
My biggest beef with the opera: Where are the baritones? I have to admit, I was hoping that the tree in the desert scene would end up being a baritone or a bass. It only seemed right. He ended up being a spoken role. That's just me though....
Well, I hope that A Parking Lot for Hyacinths continues to be performed. I enjoyed it and would even go see it again, something that I can't say of all modern compositions that I have heard. I congratulate the cast and production crew on an opera well done. Keep doing what you're doing.

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