Opera Buzz

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One of the “buzzy” arts and culture news coming out of New York last week was the fact that Chicago-based Tony award-winning director Mary Zimmermann (whose The Arabian Nights is opening in May at her ensemble home, the Lookingglass Theatre) was booed when she took her bow at curtain call during opening night of her new production of Bellini’s La Sonnambula at the Metropolitan Opera. The production has gotten mixed to negative reviews, with critical brickbat primarily directed towards Zimmermann’s conceptual, meta-theatrical approach to the opera:  re-set in 2009 New York City, an opera company rehearsing La Sonnambula finds its performers’ real lives starting to resemble those of the opera’s protagonists’.  It’s not a novel approach at all (uhmm, the movie version of French Lieutenant’s Woman?  the recent Comedy of Errors at Chicago Shakespeare?), but there seems to be a lot of angst and anger at the updating and reconceptualization of “sacred” opera text – check out Chris Jones’ theater blog for a very lively discussion among both Chicago and New York-based opera goers.  Although I’m amused at the opera “purists” yakking away on Chris’s and other blogs, and though I won’t back off from a fight with arts purists of any kind, I won’t be jumping into the fray given I haven’t seen the production.  As my avid blog readers know, though, in theater, or opera for that matter, I am a very strong advocate of artistic concepts and visions that 1) create additional, fresh, insightful layers of meaning and resonance from the original text; 2) and in the process, draw new, non-traditional audiences to the work.  If Zimmermann’s La Sonnambula accomplishes these two things, then brava to her, and the “purists” can go sequester themselves in their hideous dank attics with their Maria Callas LP albums.

That’s why I am a big fan of Chicago Opera Theater, whose productions always bring freshness and delight, and erases any preconception of a staid and soporific night at the opera.  Their season is set to open on April 18, with Mozart’s La Clemenza de Tito, which, if I’m hearing the director and the designers on the website right, seems to be set in a Roman-inspired 1970′s Studio 54-type milieu.  Should be interesting.  One thing that I really admire about COT is their passion and zeal in bringing new audiences in to discover opera, and so I’m very happy to mention (and encourage my blog readers to check out) two programs that they’re running:  Opera Underground and their Youtube video contest.  I attended Opera Underground last year, and I thought it was a good start for eventually bringing together a young professionals’ council for the organization.  For a discounted ticket price, you can attend a pre-performance reception (last year, it was at the Fairmont’s Aria bar) and get “A” seats (which are mighty fine ones) at the Harris Theater.  This year, they’re offerring it as a two-opera or three-opera package (in addition to Tito, the season is also comprised of Peter Brook’s marvellous experimental adaptation of Bizet’s La Tragedie de Carmen, and Benjamin Britten’s Owen Wingrave).  This is a great deal, so run out and become part of the Underground!

The Youtube Contest is even a better deal for you media-savvy, tech-loving, opera-curious (or already opera-initiated) folks out there.  Just put together a short video answering the question “Why do you deserve free tickets to COT?” and upload it to the COT YouTube page.  The top three winners as voted on by Youtube users will receive two free season subscriptions while the runners-up will receive two passes to the final dress rehearsal of Tito.  The contest is ongoing and ends on April 1.  Check out this link for the COT kick-off video and additional details.  Get your best Brunhildde get-up ready!  Hopefully, these two COT programs will ensure that future audiences will keep opera a vibrant, exciting, and profitable art form in Chicago for years to come.

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One Response to “Opera Buzz”

  1. mobaqq.club Says:

    Opera Buzz | From the Ledge | A blog reviewing Chicago theater and covering film, art, and
    cultural events in Chicago http://enews.live

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