Last Saturday I went to Goat Hall Production
's presentation of two "cabaret operas" in Oakland, at the small Oakland Metro Operahouse off of Jack London Square. I love this rather small and intimate venue since one does not feel dwarfed in viewing operas or concerts but one is very, very close (and sometimes in the midst) of all the action.
I am a terrible reviewer, as I repeatedly tell people. More often than not, when I pay to go to a concert, I am just really happy to be there. I suppose it goes back to my upbringing when my mother would always scold us by saying, "If you don't like what I put on the table, you can starve." I have never been good at aesthetic criticism, since I try to find a silver lining in everything. However, I will just say a few lines about the operas and post some useful links to the struggling composers so that they will have some very meagre exposure on this blog.
The first work was Mark Alburger's setting of J.M. Sygne's play, Playboy of the Western World
. Sung by various soloists with piano accompaniment, the play follows the fortunes and misfortunes of a certain Christopher Mahon. The musical style was very eclectic, as the composer cites as influences, among others, "Dmitri Shostakovitch's Symphony No. 1; common practice minimalism; Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes
; 12-bar blues; and beer barrel polkas." In spite of this musical collage, I thought the experience was still pleasant on the ears. Examples of his music can be found here
The second work of the night was Steven Clark's Dionysius, that dealt with the bloody nature of mystery religions in Greece. The play "reimages" the Euripides play, The Bacchae, about the introduction of the cult of Dionysius into ancient Greek society. I won't go into many details about the plot, but let's just say it ends with human sacrifice. (Maybe a postmodern Sacre du Printemps, with a "morning after" scene.)
The music was partially pre-recorded on computer, with a live electric guitar player and percussionist. The composer also tried to incorporate the few musical themes that we have as remnants of what ancient Greek music may have sounded like. Some samples of his music can be found here
If she is so inclined, the lovely and highly intelligent AG
who accompanied me could give more extensive comments about the performance in the comment box.