Séance on a Wet Afternoon at City Opera
April 28, 2011
* Notes *
The East Coast premiere of Séance on a Wet Afternoon from Stephen Schwartz was given at New York City Opera earlier this month. The opera itself had some impressive intensity, particularly in the last two séances. The orchestration, however, was dense, and the male voices were particularly difficult to make out at times. The libretto had kitschy moments, though this seems very hard to avoid. One did appreciate the bits of humor that came through in early scenes, even in this dark tale. Heidi Ettinger's attractive set was light artfully by David Lander. Alejo Vietti's 1960s costumes were likewise pleasing. The direction and the musical staging, from Scott Schwartz and Matt Williams, respectively, both showed thoughtfulness. The chorus was put to good use, especially in the ransom scene, where the singers are first reporters, then passengers on a trolley. End did strike me as bizarre, and I am not sure what exactly occurred in the plot.
Under Steven Osgood, the orchestra had a lovely transparency during the first overture. The seating arrangement was unusual, with 1st and 2nd violins and basses up against the front wall of the pit. The celli and violas were in the middle on platforms, and there was a large gap between these instruments and the violins.
The singing and acting was strong. The scene with the Irish tenor (Michael Marcotte) was lovely, though the end was rather loud, Todd Wilander (Charles Clayton) was slightly hard to hear until he sang in his higher range. As Rita Clayton, Melody Moore's portrayal of motherly love was heartbreaking. Kim Josephson played anguished Bill Foster believably. One found compassion for him. Lauren Flanigan (Myra Foster) was terrifying. She could sound sweet and delicate, but could be harsh when necessary. There were times when I felt she might be flat, but of course I do not know this music, and it did not matter, in any case, Flanigan was effective. Her last séance was searing.
* Tattling *
The house was not full for yesterday's performance, perhaps many potential attendees were at the Met's sold-out Walküre instead. There was some whispering during the overtures and even the arias, but people were responsive to hushings.