West Edge Opera's Hydrogen Jukebox
July 27, 2014
* Notes *
West Edge Opera is currently performing a summer festival at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. Today was the opening of Philip Glass' chamber opera Hydrogen Jukebox, with text by Allen Ginsberg. The space is not a typical performance venue, but West Edge Opera was able make suitable arrangements nonetheless. Elkhanah Pulitzer's production did not lack for ideas, in fact, the activity on stage seemed ceaseless. It was especially charming when paper airplanes were thrown at the audience, but there were also moments when it may have been more appropriate to take in the words and music without quite so much movement and busyness. The narrator, Howard Swain, was rather energetic.
For the most part the musicians were above and to the sides of the stage, though conductor David Möschler descended a ladder to play the piano in front of the stage for "Song #6 from Wichita Vortex Sutra." There were times when the balance was slightly off, as when the percussion sounded somewhat anemic in Act I. The singers gave completely committed performances. Tenor Jonathan Blalock sounded sweet and mezzo Nicole Takesono sang prettily. Bass Kenneth Kellogg sounded strong but did not overwhelm. Molly Mahoney (Soprano II) had a nice richness, while the resonances of Sara Duchovnay (Soprano I) were pleasing. Baritone Efrain Solis sang hauntingly. His voice has warmth but was beautifully ethereal at the beginning and ending of the piece.
* Tattling *
I managed to snag a front row seat at the last moment and had little to complain about as far as my adjacent audience members are concerned.