- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
|Daniel Belcher||John Brooke|
|Chen-Ye Yuan||Friedrich Bhaer|
|Katherine Ciesinski||Cecilia March|
|James Maddalena||Gideon March|
|Gwendolyn Jones||Alma March|
|Derrick Parker||Mr. Dashwood|
|Houston Grand Opera Orchestra|
|Melissa Graff||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|Christopher McCollum||Set Decoration/Design|
Posted November 16, 2010
Louisa May Alcott wrote her novel "Little Women" in 1868, less than fifteen years after the end of the Civil War and at a time when American women were starting to question their role in society. Alcott herself grew up watching the Civil War, was a young adult and - it is said - personally questioned women's rights and roles with respect to relationships, money and position. The protagonist, Jo, is the eldest of four sisters and views her siblings' rush to marriage, their obedience to strong relatives, including mother and father, and even the poverty of the "reconstruction" period as unacceptable situations in her mind. Critics have studied Alcott's characters and the author's own life and see direct connections to the circumstances and viewpoints of Jo. As the story progresses, Jo watches one young sister, Meg, rush into marriage to a man, Brooke, who Jo sees as domineering. She watches another, Amy, go off to pursue her dream as an artist and to eventually marry a young man who - at first - loved; and was spurned by; Jo. A poignant and heartbreaking moment in the novel and in this opera is the death of little sister Beth; mirroring the death of Louis May's actual younger sister of scarlet fever. Throughout, Jo is portrayed as a character who evolves from cynical and self sufficient to a young woman who feels alone and unsure to, ultimately, someone who finds her calling as a writer and - in the final scene - seems to be at rest with the notion of marrying a German professor, Friedrich, who she met during her studies. Mark Adamo is one if the brightest and most accessible young composers on the scene. He composed "Little Women" for the Houston Grand Opera in 1998 and this DVD performance represents director Brian Large's television rendition but with original casting and scenery intact. Both as compelling storyline and as an opera this succeeds on all levels. Just like the novel, which; for many years, has been a thematic staple for younger readers, the drama is emotional and internal. This is not an action piece or a scenery piece. The performances thrive because of the strong performances within. Stephanie Novacek as Jo brings a strength and determination with the requisite underlying vulnerable to her performance. She sings while shedding tears during Beth's death scene. Similarly, the other sisters; Joyce DiDonato as Meg, Stacey Tappan as Beth and Margaret Lloyd as Amy reflect emotions ranging from bull-headedness to naivete and so convincingly. The male parts - as in the novel - are not the centerpiece. Yet, contemporary music star James Maddalena brings a loving, but not quite fully aware, father to life and Chad Shelton as the love struck, somewhat naive Laurie is terrific. Adamo's music is unashamedly romantic and tuneful. The signature pieces, such as "Perfect as We Are" and the four sisters' "Nocturne" are emotional gems and the Houston Opera chorus and orchestra under conductor Patrick Summers provide a warm, focused and never intrusive sound. This disc is highly recommended for fans of the novel, for fans of new opera and even for fans of some of the newer "operatic" music theater, like Adam Guettel. Adamo is an engaging, talented new voice and I, personally, look forward to San Francisco Opera's premiere of his "The Gospel of Mary Magdalene" Should be terrific if "Little Women" is any indication!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 28, 2010
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