This year’s GGS School fall opera was a presentation of three short works influenced by Dada and surrealism. The first was Martinů’s Les larmes du couteau. It’s a hard work to describe. Here’s what naxos.com has to offer:
Eleanor longs to marry someone like the Hanged Man, whose body is suspended over the stage. Satan appears, professing love for Eleanor, who rejects him, still longing for the Hanged Man, to which Satan now marries her, an event she celebrates by dancing a tango. A Negro Cyclist appears and Satan assumes the latter’s form. Eleanor seeks to attract the Negro/Satan, while her Mother makes gymnastic gestures at the back of the stage. Eleanor kisses the Negro, whose head bursts open, revealing Satan. Eleanor, terrified, stabs herself and the Hanged Man starts to dance to a foxtrot, as his head and limbs are detached, for him to juggle with. He comes to life and embraces Eleanor, but when she kisses him his head bursts open and the face of Satan is seen. She gives up her pursuit of love, while the Mother claims to know how to win Satan’s love, only to be rejected.
Les Larmes du couteau is very short in duration and offered obvious problems in staging, to be solved, it has been suggested, by the use of film.
Anna Theodosakis couldn’t quite pull off all that within the confines of Mazzoleni Hall but the essence was well conveyed with some appealing singing and acting from Kateryna Khartova as Eléonore. The mother was played in a convincingly, flapper like, angular style by Rachel Miller while Noah Grove was a rich toned and very creepy Satan. Michael Dodge played the cyclist but his head didn’t explode, which I appreciated as that would likely have happened right next to me. Peter Tiefenbach led a twelve piece, on stage, ensemble, which was a welcome change from piano only. The performance of this ebullient score was appropriately red blooded. The limited stage space left for the singers was compensated for by Theodosakis’ intelligent use of the auditorium.
Next came the brothers Conquer playing Schulhoff’s Hot-Sonate for piano and saxophone. This jazz inspired piece is quite interesting if a bit long for my taste. It was nicely played by the Conquers and provided “cover” for re-arranging the stage for Hindemith’s Hin und Zurück that followed.
Hin und Zurück is, famously, a musical palindrome. A man comes home early to give his wife a birthday present, discovers she has a lover and shoots her. The body is taken away. The body is brought back, he unshoots her etc. The lines; words and music, of the first half are repeated in reverse order in the second.
The bulk of the singing here is done by Robert played by tenor Michael Dodge and Helene sung by soprano Giulianna Misasi. Both made the most of the twelve minutes or so the piece takes with clear, accurate delivery and slightly stylized acting. Among the surprisingly large number of cameos Rachel Miller again stood out as the Maid; angularity personified.
The show is well constructed and contains pieces rarely seen (though Opera 5 did Hin und Zurück not so long ago). The whole show is only a little over an hour long and, unfortunately, last night was the last performance.
Photo credits: Nicola Betts