Experiments in Opera: ‘Flash Operas’

24/05/2017

Various: David Bloom (musical director), Rob Reese (director), Elyse Kakacek (soprano), Kate Maroney (mezzo-soprano), Timothy Stoddard (tenor), Eric McKeever (baritone). Symphony Space, New York City. 6.5.2017. (DS)

Jason Cady: Voices in My Head
Miguel Frasconi: Things You Should Know
Cristina Lord: Pledge Drive
Nicole Murphy: Mandela Was Late
Aaron Siegel: The Wallet
Matthew Welch: Level

As the genre of opera expands, the length of the opera seems to be shrinking—but not for the worse! Composers are deepening their creative tool kit with pocket-sized slices of life. To their credit, mini-operas embrace themes of everyday life and the unmarked experiences of everyday humans—voices that have been typically overlooked by operatic tradition.

Under the auspices of the innovative composer-driven initiative, Experiments in Opera, six composers wrote fifteen-minute works for Flash Operas at Symphony Space. These six engaging works were tightly reworked short stories, all energetically presented without intermission. The performance, directed by Rob Reese, had a “binge-watching” draw that would have any Netflix watcher hitting “next episode” long past a reasonable bedtime.

The breadth of human experience that flashed through these 90 minutes included a comedic Kickstarter-like hipster fundraising pitch, a mind-boggling conversation with Nelson Mandela’s myopic parole officer, a soon-to-be father deeply obsessed with leveling his baby furniture, a tollbooth worker thrown into moral quandary, an educated narrator questioning the basis of his knowledge worth, and a buffoon-like party “animal” unsure of his (or her) relationship to alcohol or, perhaps, schizophrenia – presented with the utmost slapstick hilarity, of course.

Amid this theatrical array, Mandela was Late by Nicole Murphy stood out as capitalizing on the power of the short opera to relay the invisible story of the nobody in society. In an invented conversation between Nelson Mandela, played by Eric McKeever, and a parole officer, tenor Timothy Stoddard brought gravitas to the ignorant main character. His blindness to Mandela’s greater global significance does not belittle him so much as paint him as a tragic, disconnected “Everyman” figure of modern society – both unexpectedly moving and disheartening.

All parts were played by the same group of singers, who swiftly changed character with ease and punctilious shifts in acting. They convincingly relayed moods of tragedy, satire, the banal, and humor that created the necessary context in the few minutes available to them.  While it may have gone by in a flash, each episode left a lasting mark.

Daniele Sahr

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Spitalfields Music Festival 2017 in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Hampstead Garden Opera Bring The Enchanted Pig to Highgate in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Svetlana Zakharova and Bolshoi Stars Bring Amore to the London Coliseum in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Tom Green and Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife Premieres on 15 October in Cardiff __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Autumn/Winter Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • NEW! A Riveting Kokoschka’s Doll from Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise __________________________________
  • NEW! ANGELA BROWNRIDGE IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H