REVIEW: The Magic Flute

I’d like to take a moment to freak out about the brilliant lighting scheme of “The Magic Flute”. This opera is, I think, about finding a compromise between dark and light, between pure disorder and pure order, but doing so through the eyes of a child. This might not make any sense to you, but I thought that the lighting portrayed that beautifully. There was a particular circle that was useful in telling me the time of day and how I should feel about it by the color that was lighting it up.

Anyway, now for a quick summary:

“The Magic Flute” begins in the bedroom of a young girl. Her parents are fighting, it’s thunderstorming in the night, and her wardrobe doors are forced open by a young prince running away from a dragon. The Queen of the Night sends this Prince Tamino on a quest to save her daughter from her kidnapper, Sarastro (who didn’t actually kidnap her because Pamina is the daughter of the Queen of the Night and Sarastro). Pamina and Tamino fall in love while Tamino’s friend, Papageno, can’t learn to keep quiet, but in the end they manage to stop to the war between Sarastro (who appears to be a kind of lord of light) and the Queen of the Night.

That was very quick and will probably have Emanuel Schikaneder rolling in his grave, but I wanted to get that out of the way to talk about the cast. Jacob Wright and Jonathan Harris, who played Tamino and Sarastro, respectively, have outstanding voices that I remembered from “The Barber of Seville” last semester. Katy Clark’s soprano was thrilling as Queen of the Night, and Natasha Drake performed a beautiful Pamina. All of the leads were phenomenal, and I am amazed to think that there is another set of entirely different Michigan students who are equally as talented.

Although at times this show was a little slow and heavy, it was also fanciful and sentimental, and I especially enjoyed the ending. After all of their hardships, so many circumstances vying to tear them apart, Pamina and Tamino find a way to be together in the light of day, away from the chaotic Queen of the Night. As an audience we find ourselves again in the long-forgotten little girl’s bedroom where her parents are bringing her a tray for breakfast. Day has dawned over night just as it always will, but I do wish we could have seen the dragon again.

PREVIEW: The Magic Flute

Presented by the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, students studying opera will be performing “The Magic Flute” on Thursday, March 27 at 7:30pm; Friday, March 28 at 8:00pm; Saturday, March 29 at 8:00pm; and Sunday, March 30 at 2:00pm.

This performance of Mozart’s opera at the Mendelssohn Theatre is sure to be terrific, and tickets may already be sold out! For up-to-date information, you can contact the League Ticket Office at 734-764-2538.

REVIEW: Collage Concert

Passport to the Arts is often an excuse for me to see a show that I would otherwise eschew: when I saw a chance for a free ticket on the first floor of Hill Auditorium for the collage concert, there was no excuse not to go.

Despite the bitter winds that hovered just above 0 and the basketball game on at the same time, I stumbled through the snow and into my first collage concert by the School of Music, Theater, and Dance.

Collage is the perfect word for what I witnessed over the course of two and a half hours. The concert took on a kind of pattern, where a piece performed by the symphony was followed by dance, then a soloist, then the choir. Initially, the transition from the symphony’s “cheating, lying, stealing” to a theater number (“Fiddlestix”) was jarring—a lush, harmony of strings and horns and percussion contrasted sharply by a small band flanking a group of tap dancers. Absolutely fantastic.

While I entered Hill Auditorium expecting a slower-paced concert—where the band would play several songs, then the dancers would take over for a few numbers—the changes were quick and unexpected. In this modern age with short attention spans, it was the perfect remedy to longer, more ponderous events. If your mind wanders, or even if you want to check the program to know who is performing, you will surely miss something important.

Conductors cycled through like commuters through a revolving door. A vast array of soloists broke up the group performances with extraordinary prowess. In fact, the best part of the night was Christopher Sies’ “Rebounds B.” A percussion piece, Sies began slowly, shifting between drums and xylophones with a simple rhythm. The rhythm moved faster and faster until he was moving at hundreds of beats per minute and the audience was on the edge of its seat, praying he wouldn’t make a mistake. Like everyone else, Sies never made a mistake, and when he came to the stage at the end of the show, his applause was the loudest.

At the intermission, one of the conductors announced Mary Sue Coleman’s attendance. As she stood and waved to the crowd of hundreds, he remarked that it would be her last collage concert as president. In tribute, the orchestra played “Rhapsody in Maize and Blue,” a combination of “Hail to the Victors” and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” While I’m not usually a fan of subverting art for the purposes of gratuitous school spirit, it was a touching tribute to our president.

Not only were the performances diverse and performed brilliantly, but they were complemented by the lighting and tremendous amount of background work that this event must have required. Both halves began in the dark; when light filled the stage, the band began the half. Lights directed the audience to each side of the stage for dancing or solo or theater pieces. Background music played over the speakers complemented several of the soloists beautifully.

The biggest disappointment about the Collage Concert is that it was a one-time opportunity. Hundreds of students performing and coordinating in one night is the kind of thing that makes me proud to be at U of M.
Collage Concert

Preview: The Barber of Seville, Saturday 11/16/13 8PM

Barber of Seville
Barber of Seville

The University SMTD Opera Studio is putting on The Barber of Seville by this weekend at the Power Center! The cast is made up of Doctor, Graduate, and Upperclassmen voice students. The plot is super funny, involving disguises, and trickery! Student tickets are only $10 at the Power Center ticket office.

You don’t want to miss this one!

Thursday 11/14/13 7:30 PM Power Center
Friday 11/15/13 8:00 PM Power Center
Saturday 11/16/13 8:00 PM Power Center
Sunday 11/17/13 2:00 PM Power Center

Review: Basement Arts – No Exit

Basement Arts, an awesome organization on campus, produced the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. The performances were on Thursday at 7 PM, on Friday at 7 and 11 PM and Saturday at 7 PM. All the performances were free and held in the Walgreen Drama Center. The performances were pretty well attended, as Basement Arts shows usually are. The Director was AJ Kolpach, Assistant Director, Alison Hacker, Stage Manager and Lighting, Jake Meyers, Set Designer, Daniel Estrella, and Sound Designer and composer, Samuel Johnson.

No Exit is an existential play, originally in French, in which two women, Inez and Estelle, and one man, Garcin, are escorted by a valet into a locked in a room where they remain together for all eternity as their hell. The most famous quote from the play, “Hell is other people” summarizes the entire plot. Plagued by the mistakes made when they were alive, and unable to find peace in the room due to their inherent flaws, the characters Garcin, Inez, and Estelle, reveal their biggest transgressions on Earth and, after an hour and a half, reach an impasse in their interactions with each other, revealing how they will remain stuck in an impossible dynamic with each other for all eternity.

Garcin was played by Aaquil Rowe, the Valet by Mingquan Ma, Inez by Nicole Gellman, and Estelle by Cayley Costello. Costello was by far the best actress. Her character was a social climber who had married an old, rich, man after her parents passed and was in hell for drowning the child she had with a lover. In the room, she is tormented by her need to feel desired by men. Costello did a great job of making her character vulnerable, high society, and really captured how worthless Estelle felt without validation. Aaquil Rowe was very passionate as Garcin, a pacifist who deserted the war, and abused his wife. Garcin was tormented by the idea that anyone would find him a coward, and is unable to physically love Estelle until Inez stops thinking of him as a coward. He was very expressive but flubbed his lines a few times.

No Exit
No Exit

Nicole Gellman did a good job of playing the sarcastic, cruel, lesbian, Inez, although the character seemed a little two dimensional, although that is not necessarily Gellman’s fault. Inez enters the room ready to admit to the murder she committed and fully realizes the point of the room and pits Garcin and Estelle against each other, which means, by the end of the play, the character has not really grown. The Valet, Mingquan Ma, was ok, although his diction was a little unclear.

The set on stage was a bit sparse, but still succeeding in creating the scene, with two couches, one chair, a door, a mantle, and a styrofoam bust. There was only one set issue which really brought the audience out of the moment. There is supposed the “unmovable” bronze bust on the mantle but it clearly moved and shifted around the mantle whenever anyone touched it. Original music was also created for this production by Samuel Johnson. Most of the background music was fine but there was one song sung by Inez which seemed out of place and did not have much to do with any of the characters.

Overall, Backstage Arts is a great organization on campus. This particular production was fine, anyone would have had difficulty with such an unusual play. Everyone seemed to have tried their best to make this existential play relatable and down to earth. I look forward to the next Backstage Arts production.

If you want to get involved, here are some links:
Basement Arts: Facebook
Basement Arts

PREVIEW: Ecstasy and Fantasy

Ecstasy and Fantasy

On Friday, February 15th, the School of Music, UM Chamber Choir,  and UMMA collaborate to create an evening of sounds inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Faculty from the school will perform a selection from Iriving Fine’s “Alice in Wonderland” as well as several other composers from the same era as well as a contemporary, visiting composer. The music will be performed alongside Florencia Pita’s “Alice” inspired artwork. The dual representation of imagination, fantasy, mystery, and magic will surely create a dynamic and intriguing performance. 7 pm at the UMMA.