Monday, May 17, 2010

Seattle Opera's "Amelia"

One of my great pleasures is to see new operas. Some of these might just be destined to become "classics" in their own right. It is exciting to think that this could be the case and that I was among the first people to actually see the work performed. What's on my list? Doctor Atomic, An American Tragedy, and, through the wonders of HD-Casts in the theater, The First Emperor. This weekend I added another, Seattle Opera's "Amelia".

I really enjoyed the first act very much. It was raw and visceral and not too over-the-top. Very strong singing and, well, that third scene was just rough. I felt like I could really connect with the story, etc..

The second act lost me, especially the scenes in the hospital which were so (and I know this is opera) unbelievable. Really lost me when Amelia awakes from the coma and demands natural child birth. The doctor mewling about C Sections was especially weak although I know that this was a big issue in the, what, 80's and 90's. The final scene during the birth just annoyed me. Here we have something that is supposed to represent the continuity of life, the end of doubt, etc. and it devolved into a Marx Brother's comedy accompanied by so much noise. Clichéd representation of women giving birth. Perhaps the ghosts of Dodge and Amelia's mother would have been better set in their clothes rather than scrubs?

Loved the sets and the singing (it was all so very, very strong and exciting really) but the music was pretty unforgettable (it is movie music designed to drive the drama—it did—but nothing more, excepting the Navy Hymn. We ran into one of the people from our opera group who hated the music. 

There were some other things that I just didn't think were as well integrated as they could have been.

Fear and risk is worth the payoff as a theme is pretty good. The Flier and Dodge and having a baby. But the scenes with The Flier, though intriguing dramatizations and contemplation just didn't seem to fit in so well. Neither did the Icarus scene. I understand in my head their relation but they didn't really gel together as well as they could have.

Going in to this we had talked to friends who were deeply affected by the story and the performance (mentioned this in the car yesterday). I wonder also if part of my reaction has also to do with the fact that I have not had a child? I know it to be a powerful event but, again, that is a mental thing rather than something I feel in my heart.

When it was finished I leaned over and said to M that the second act needed revision. We'll see if it does. The audience around us was pretty lukewarm and it took a while for them to get on their feet. Quite a few people, including Stattler and Waldorf, bailed on the second act which, frankly, is a shame because there were some very neat things in this that I hope they are able to refine. It is nice to see such operas coming out of the American context and using contemporaneous themes and characters.

Eaglen? Very pretty singing. Actually, it must have been neat to compose the vocal parts for the specific singers chosen.

Would I see this again? Sure would. 

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