Saturday, March 27, 2010

Portland Opera

Final Thoughts

That was a fun night. I learned a lot (about opera, downtown Portland) and ultimately had a great time. The show runs at approximately 2 hours and 5 minutes, but it went fast! (That is a GOOD THING!)

The production concept is unique, fresh, and inspiring. Focusing on love and marriage, the director, Nicholas Muni, seamlessly weaves three seemingly unrelated operas into one cohesive production. Separated by almost 350 years, these operas not only warn about relationships, but together, celebrate the art form of opera itself. I can’t speak for Claudio Monteverdi or Leonard Bernstein, but I LOVED it.

Claudio Monteverdi is an Italian composer whose works are often regarded as the music transitions of the Renaissance to the Baroque period. He also wrote one of the earliest operas, L’Orfeo.

Monteverdi’s IL BALLO DELLE INGRATE (The Dance of the Ungrateful Women) depicts a troubled Cupid (Jennifer Forni) whose arrows no longer work on mankind. In fact, mankind mocks the very idea of love. This situation leads to him begging his mother, Venus (Daryl Freedman), to ask Pluto (Jeffrey G. Beruan) to release the Ungrateful Dead and thus allowing the human race to view the true power of agony.

The costumes helped give this opera a semi-modern vibe. Cupid was dressed in a zoot suit and adorned with the traditional wings. While Venus wore a gorgeous gold gown and sipped a Martini. These were both bold choices and alone in this opera would’ve failed, but it worked in the broader picture of the evening. There were a few chuckles heard during this opera, mostly to the actor’s reactions to each other, but I think it is easier to laugh at the garishness and over-the-top manner of Greek gods. This was an excellent choice to start off the evening, given that everyone can relate to Cupid in the realm of “love and marriage.”

The transition between these operas was wonderful. As the Ungrateful Dead emerge into the world, one of the males among them becomes the narrator (Steven Brennfleck) for the second opera.

Monteverdi’s IL COMBATTIMENTO DI TANCREDI E CLORINDA (The Battle of Tancredi and Clorinda) takes a more tragic look at the topic when two lovers (Tancredi and Clorinda) meet on the battlefield during the First Crusades. The two warriors fight on opposite sides of the Christian/Islam battle. The female (Clorinda) is in disguise and not until the fatal blow is dealt, does Tancredi realize he has killed his beloved.

This opera was slower than the first. While the battle raged in the background, a second plot line took place between the narrator and a female from the Ungrateful Dead. At one point, the female had a gun to his head, while he depicted this fairytale. I am not sure what they were going for. I am assuming the Narrator and this female were engaged in a relationship at some point and this relationship was a tragic tale, but that is just my guess. I enjoyed the story, but this was the one moment in the whole night that I felt completely lost. However, I still enjoyed the opera, so I suppose that says something good about the execution. If you can be lost, but still having a great time that is a successful thing.

The use of the projection screen in this opera was better than the first. The projection screen basically projected an image or images on the entire set. These images enhanced the opera in some way. I was impressed by the amount the audience had to look at. The set for all three operas was minimal. It consisted of a bow shaped platform and the occasional prop. However, the projection screen added an outstanding visual element that gave depth and context to the operas. Also, there were three screens that projected English subtitles to enhance your understanding of the plot. It was a great experience.

Leonard Bernstein is an American composer born in 1918. He was among the first American conductors to receive worldwide acclaim. The New York Times claim he is "one of the most prodigally talented and successful musicians in American history."

Bernstein’s TROUBLE IN TAHITI features the troubles of a marriage during the ideal, shiny, and perfect 1950s. During one day, the couple indulges themselves in affairs and other distractions to take their minds off the troubled marriage. This opera depicts the television and film as an escape from the trouble in paradise.

I have to say, this was my favorite opera. First, it was in English. Second, I understood the time period better. And finally, it has a few jazz elements, which I enjoyed.

There were a few liberties taken. The father, Sam (Jose Rubio), has an affair with his secretary Miss Brown or in the production Venus. While the mother, Dinah (Daryl Freedman) has an affair with Pluto. The Ungrateful Dead play other roles through the opera. I think it added a new element and twist on the affairs that implied things I am not sure Bernstein had in mind, but it worked. Weaving in characters from all three operas into the scenes helped bring the triple bill together under one constant umbrella.

The 50’s inspired visuals on this opera were great. And the “perfect” Fantasy Trio (Jennifer Forni, Steve Brennfleck, and Christopher Clayton) acted not only as a type of Greek chorus, but added a bit of humor in to a tragic storyline.

I had a great time attending the opera and I encourage you to check out this production as well as future productions. The cast was great and the production was marvelous!

Friday, March 26, 2010

After the Show

What a show! There were some great moments. I do have to say, Bernstein did not disappoint. Tonight, before going to bed, I will give a few final thoughts and post the little video I did capture.

The cast was fantastic. The people here have been great and all in all it was a fun night. IF you are looking for something to do in Portland, check out the show. Trouble in Tahiti is running March 28, April 1 and a final performance on the 3rd.

Robert Ashbrook, one of my students has been blogging on the student blog and Paul has been tweeting all night too.

Once again, check back late tonight for final thoughts and video.


This is a bit of a marathon. I usually like to reflect overnight before making post, so forgive any random thoughts.

So, it is intermission. The opera is very interesting. I was wondering how they could possibly tie the two Monteverdi pieces together. Surprisingly, it was seamless. One of the souls released from the underworld became the narrator for the second opera. Cupid and Venus were charming and offered a few moments of comedy.

When I attended the opera as a child, my mother would always describe the plot to us before we attended. You can imagine a child could easily be confused when the opera is in Italian. If you do not have a mother to describe the action to you, fear not, the Portland Opera offers screens with subtitles to help you along in the story.
I am looking forward to the Bernstein piece after intermission. Being a fan of West Side Story, I have high hopes.

Before the Show

We are constantly seeing people come up with creative ways to utilize the power of social media. Every time I hear of a new innovative idea, I can’t help but be excited. Portland Opera is hosting blogger nights. They invite bloggers from the area; give them a backstage tour, snacks and a place to blog about the show. Here is an innovative idea that brings opera to a new audience. Tonight I am participating in this adventure.

I love opera, but I have to admit, I haven’t been in years. My mother is a composer. I remember going to the symphony and occasionally the opera as a young girl. I’ve always been fascinated with the opera. I think it comes out of my love for music and theatre.

Tonight’s performance is a triple bill, two works by Monteverdi (II Ballo delle Ingrate and II Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda) and Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. The three pieces are woven together under the umbrella of love and set in a 50’s atmosphere. The actors of all the operas play minor roles in each piece.

So far, we’ve had fun finding the place, taken a tour backstage, and met the director. The parking is only my fault as it is my first time in downtown Portland.


Tonight I will be blogging live from the Portland Opera. It is a triple bill including Trouble in Tahiti by American composer Leonard Bernstein (also know for the music in West Side Story).

Check here for a live report including more photos and video starting around 7pm pacific.

Pictured are Jose Rubio as Sam and Daryl Freedman as Dinah. Photo courtesy of the Portland Opera/Cory Weaver

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I started writing reviews for The Christian Rock 20. Take a look at my current album reviews.

Just You and Me by Adie

Sing It Now by Poema