Slow Listening Saturdays: Opposites attract

We had our season preview concert up at Glimmerglass today, a very cool event where people from the area come into our house to get a taste of our four shows. It’s also wonderful for the company, because it’s our first chance to see our colleague’s work. The reaction was huge and our hopes are high for the summer. I hope you’re making plans to come catch it!

We from Team Ariadne stepped up with an aria from our title heroine, followed by a quintet of hip-hop dancers…what? You see,  Ariadne deals with the age old conflict between opera lovers, indeed lovers of classical music in general – is music supposed to be a spiritual experience or a diverting pleasure? We can get caught up in that like nobody’s business. What I love about Ariadne is that both ideas get their moment on the stage and exist, equally valid, together. Christine Goerke as Ariadne delivered her aria with the beauty and authority of sound that can lift people right out of their seats, and immediately after that Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta and her quartet of comedians dazzled and entertained with high notes, dancing, and humor. Isn’t real life like this? totally serious one minute and lighthearted the next? Don’t the most impossible unions happen all the time? All four of our operas deal with this kind of rocky union in one way or another, and the results each time are very different.

I was thinking about this earlier in the program, when Ryan McKinny and Andrea Carroll sang the Bench Scene from Carousel. “Oh, the musical!” you might think – but Carousel is only one tiny step removed from the world of Ariadne. History tangent: I taught a masterclass yesterday down in Princeton NJ at the CoOperative Program, and a soprano there sang a gorgeous aria by Franz Léhar, who was a composer of Viennese operetta. He and Strauss knew one another (Strauss was not a fan) – in fact, Léhar was music director of one of Vienna’s smaller theaters while Strauss was running the Vienna State Opera. Léhar’s operetta The Merry Widow was a huge international hit, and kicked off a vogue for Viennese operetta everywhere, including in America. A young German-American composer there, Richard Rodgers, grew up surrounded by it – and he ended up writing some music you may have heard.

What I meant to say is this: opera, operetta, and indeed all theater is full of love stories that are condensed versions of the Ariadne conflict. Two people who don’t seem to belong together find their way to each other. What are the chances that will ever happen? And yet it does, a miracle. Not always a good idea, but a miracle just the same.

Here is the brilliant love scene from Léhar’s Merry Widow, including the famous waltz sung by Karita Mattila and Bo Skovhus – and here is a recreation of the original Bench Scene from Carousel, with John Raitt and Jan Clayton singing “If I Loved You.” Listen slow, everybody. How far apart are these worlds? I hope you can hear their similarities. The characters onstage feel the gulfs between them, but we can see what a small step will bring them together.

Listen and share, and enjoy. Take it Slow.

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