Friday, April 3, 2009

Lots of music this weekend

We just came back from the Seattle Opera Young Artists production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a great show, with excellent singing, playing and acting (including Puck, which is a spoken role), nice use of the set and props, and really good ensemble work. I was a bit puzzled about the boarding school concept, but Peter Kazaras (Artistic Director for the program and director for this show) explained after the show that he wanted to use a setting in which children, who are used in Britten's score, were at least as much in charge as adults. In addition, the school concept let the production team create a set design that put the focus on the singers and fit into the program's budget.

Kazaras also said that, since one of the purposes of the Young Artist program is to prepare singers for whatever opera directors might throw at them in their career, he deliberately threw in some difficult blocking, such as singing while getting on and off tabletops or interacting physically with each other, and (I assume since he didn't talk about it) singing while rearranging tables in specific configurations or while lying down.

Britten set the text beautifully...even the tricky rhythms seem to follow speech cadences. The music sounds a bit otherworldly, but hell, there are fairies in the play. His use of harmonies and orchestral colours, and the tight relationship between the vocal lines and the orchestra are amazing. When I have some time, I'd like to compare the libretto to Shakespeare's play to see what Britten and Pears cut out in their adaptation.

If you have a chance to see the production before it closes this weekend I highly recommend it--preferably on Saturday night, since (CONCERT PLUG ALERT!) on Sunday afternoon one of the choirs I'm in (Seattle Chamber Singers) is performing Bach's St. John Passion with Orchestra Seattle and guest soloists under the direction of George Shangrow, and it would be really cool to have people see that too. We'll be at First Free Methodist Church in Seattle at 3 pm. Check here for details.

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