Saturday, April 4, 2009

Let’s Hear From You!

I hope this blog has been a useful tool, these last couple of weeks, for people who want to find out more about Seattle Opera’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But now that we’re down to our last two performances, we’d love to turn things around and hear from you, our audience and readers. We host a post-show Q&A after every performance, and of course lots of people write us letters and emails; but I hope this blog will also become a forum for the audience to express their comments, concerns, and (if I know anything about opera-goers, strong!) opinions.

Mary Potter's painting OPEN WINDOW BY MOONLIGHT from Britten's house in AldeburghDiscussions at our Q&As have touched on subjects such as Peter Kazaras’s choice to set the opera in a classroom instead of an enchanted forest (Kazaras has said his initial inspiration was the image of moonlight at a large casement window); singing Shakespeare, and the various accents prepared by our English diction coach Lynn Baker; auditioning and preparing the children’s chorus; similarities between Britten’s use of the celesta to characterize the spooky Peter Quint in Turn of the Screw, and Oberon in Midsummer; and of course the countertenor voice.

To get you started, here are a few comments about Midsummer passed on to me by a teacher whose students came to the opera:

“My favorite characters were Puck and Bottom.”

“It was nice that this opera was in English, because it was a lot easier to follow.”

“I think English is the worst language for opera.”

“With opera in English, I focus on the words instead of the music.”

“I didn't like Oberon because he wasn't what I had pictured.”

“At first I was a little skeptical about the counter-tenor, but I ended up really liking how it sounded and what it did for the character. If his voice had been low it would have been weird, whereas the high pitch of his voice was very beautiful and fairy-like.”

“The Fairies were awesome, they could really sing, I was impressed. I also liked the part when the faires played instruments.”

“I loved the children’s facial expressions and truthful reaction to the situation with Titania and Bottom as the ass.”

“I hated the school setting with a passion.”

“Grouping the students as one age and the teachers another, and representing Oberon and Titania as the older upperclassmen, was genius. I really enjoyed this unique interpretation.”

“It was confusing to hear the singers talk about being in the forest while they were actually in a building.”

“The only part that did not seem to fit with the school set was Bottom turning into the donkey; I didn't understand quite what a donkey had to do with a school, but it was a dream, so I suppose that could be rational in a dream.”

“All of the characters seemed to be trying too hard to be as modern as possible, when the dialogue and story is much older. I found myself having to translate the characters in the opera into who they were supposed to be in the play to follow along. However, I did feel that Oberon was mystical, serious, but with a bit of strangeness, and seemed to fit more into the time period of the original play.”

“The reason I liked the school as a setting was because everytime a fairy or mythical creature entered it was either through the closet door or through a window, and whenever a mortal entered the setting it was through one of the main doors.”

“I enjoyed the blunt humor incorporated into the opera; however, I didn't find the drunken wall as funny as everyone else did.”

“I really liked how this opera made obvious all the perverse things in the play: Oberon's obsession with the little boy, and Tytania's relationship with a donkey.”


Geoduck said...

I really liked the performance in general: I posted my review on my blog.

I regret that I haven't been to any Young Artist Program peformances before now.

Jonathan said...

When, many months ago, I first heard that this year’s Young Artists Program was going to be A Midsummer Night's Dream my initial thought was, I must admit, "How are they going to do the Children's Chorus?”. I still remember the YAP doing, very successfully I thought, the second act of La Boheme without a crowd so I assumed that this would be a stripped down Dream – but how do you cut down an opera with a large cast and no truly minor characters? I was therefore extremely happy, and surprised, when at the first rehearsal I realized that his would be a fully staged version of the Dream with a full cast including the chorus of fairies.

I must state upfront that I was put off Britten at a young and tender age and it has taken me a long time to open up to him again … but after The Turn of the Screw and Billy Budd I was ready for more and the YAP have far exceeded my expectations. We had an incredible cast, I feel almost reluctant to name names, but in my mind Anthony Roth Costanzo and Emily Hindrichs stood out: their singing (as Oberon and Tytania) was beautiful and ethereal while always staying controlled. I also enjoyed Elizabeth Pojanowski as Hermia and I can’t ignore the great character singing of Alex Mansoori as Flute/Thisbe. But to be completely honest I don’t think there was weak link in the whole cast. I also think that the concept (and the set) worked very well – having come up through a very British education the distinction between the different levels in the school was completely recognizable to me.

Regrets: yes I have a few. I would have liked a “fuller” orchestra – the playing by the Auburn Symphony was excellent but I thought it sounded at bit thin in places. The “English” accent of Puke wandered all over the Sceptred Isle and was, to be honest, a bit of a distraction (it was interesting that the only people I heard complain about this where themselves British and/or Irish).

Why do I enjoy the YAP so much? Maybe it is the venue? Maybe it is the enthusiasm of the cast? Maybe it is the fact that I can walk to the performances? I don’t know for sure … but I can say that I enjoy these performances more than some main stage performances. I am missing it already … roll on next year!

Staffan H. said...

I would just like to say that the show was great. I was actually in the show, playing on of the Children's Chorus Members. Peaseblossom, to be exact. The set was Fantastic, and I love the music. I'm already a little teary here because the show's was so fun.

In short, I loved being in it and I hope everybody else loved watching it.