OperaSLO To Go
By Kathryn Bumpass
Dear Readers, allow me to introduce you to a vibrant group of musical artists sponsored by Opera San Luis Obispo — OperaSLO To Go. These young people sing short programs of opera "favorites" and American musical theater in coffee houses, restaurants, retirement homes, schools, and wineries in San Luis Obispo County.
According to OperaSLO executive director, Sharon Dobson, OperaSLO To Go hopes to plant seeds of interest among diverse audiences in the community. The group is committed to providing a live performance experience of classical and modern works with a focus on accessibility and audience development. Another very important goal is to promote local singers and instrumentalists in their artistic development.
OperaSLO To Go performers are able to try out new repertoire and communicate the joy they feel in the music by getting away from the formal atmosphere of the concert hall. Their ultimate goal is to promote opera as an exciting, living and progressive art form deserving a place in the cultural landscape of San Luis Obispo County.
The group is also available for hire at social, business, or holiday events. You can enhance a birthday or anniversary party, a corporate event or a seasonal gathering with madrigals, favorite songs, and traditional carols for the winter holidays. For more information call 805.541.5369 or email Sharon Dobson.
The MET Live in HD
The Met live in HD series got off to a brilliant start with Donizetti's Anna Bolena, the story of Henry VIII's second wife. Soprano Anna Netrebko sang the leading role in a display of vocal brilliance and dramatic force, felt particularly in the last 20 minutes of the opera. Audiences in both New York and San Luis Obispo demanded several curtain calls.
Next in the Met's is Wagner's Siegfried, third in the series of four music dramas that comprise his Ring des Nibelungen. Wagner preferred the term "music drama" because he felt opera of his day was debased because of its heavy emphasis on showy singing to the detriment of drama. That said, his works are full of grand opera elements, and Siegfried is no exception.
The young man Siegfried, destined to become the hero of Wagner's cosmic four-part drama, is portrayed as a near savage, living wild in nature. His mother Sieglinde has died in the previous drama The Valkyrie, so he has been raised by the dwarf, Mime.
At the beginning of the opera Mime, working over at a smoldering anvil, is trying to forge the pieces of Siegfried's sword that had been shattered in The Valkyrie. Mime, despite repeated tries, fails. Eventually Siegfried himself restores the sword. With it he goes to the cave of the giant, Fafner, who has taken the form of a dragon, and who possesses the magic gold that is the symbol of ultimate power in the Ring. Siegfried slays the dragon. All this is only half the drama!
It is easy to imagine the visual opportunities these scenes present — a dark forest with smoke and fire surrounding the anvil, a cave and a dragon, the battle with the dragon. We can look forward to imaginative use of the "machine," the Met's elaborate moving stage machine created for this production, and to many other spectacular effects.
In a completely different vein is Philip Glass' Satyagraha or "force of truth", based on the life of Gandhi during his years in South Africa (1893 – 1914). "Satyagraha" is the term Gandhi adopted for his approach to non-violent resistance. In these early years he used it as the inspiration for his attempts to overcome white South Africans' discrimination against Indians.
The opera is cast in three acts, each one overseen by a "spiritual guardian." These three are historical figures Gandhi revered — the Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, the Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, and the American civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These are silent roles, but their presence hovers over each act as a source of the ideas motivating Gandhi's actions in his struggle against apartheid.
If all one knows of Philip Glass are his early works and, in particular, his first opera Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha will come as a surprise. Here we find many of the elements of conventional opera — solo voices singing lyrical melodies, a chorus,and an orchestra. Glass has cast his forms symmetrically. Acts 1and 2 have three compact scenes each, Act 3 one longer scene. Scholar Tim Page has described the effects as follows:
"After the timeless, purely philosophical opening, in which Gandhi is advised by Prince Arjuna and Lord Krishna from the Bhagavad Gita, the scenes are set in 1910, 1906, 1896, 1906, 1908 and 1913 respectively. Every scene is a self-sufficient drama in miniature; connections between each one are established mainly through musical and cumulative means, rather than through a continuity of stage action."
"Satyagraha is designed on a moral, indeed religious, plane, and as such is closer to ritual than entertainment, to mystery play than standard opera. Few were prepared for its beauty and spiritual propulsion."
OPERA LOVERS MEET
Opera Lovers Meet will hear a talk about Satyagraha on Wednesday, November 2, by yours truly, Kathryn Bumpass. The program will be held at the Odd Fellows Hall on Dana Street. There is no admission charge, and the public is invited. For additional information, email Kathryn Bumpass or call 805-709-0840.