Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Urban Arias III: Glory Denied

Before saying a word about the final Wozzeck performance at the Met last Saturday, I just want to give a shout out to Tom Cipullo's "Glory Denied", the last installment in Urban Arias inaugural season, which I neglected to review after the fact.
Suffice it to say, this was a great way to send off the first round of what promises to be a very enjoyable institution for DC. The piece, for a quartet of singers and chamber orchestra, deals with the story of Jim Thompson, the longest held Vietnam POW, and his wife, Alyce, who left him for another man during his captivity, and is a fine example of the dramatic and musical possibilities of the form. The cast led by Michael Chioldi in a commanding performance, made a strong impression as equal to both the dramatic as well as musical demands of the piece, while the orchestra under the direction of Robert Wood achieved fine balance with the singers without sacrificing the many interesting details in Cipullo's score.
If I could register two quibbles, they would be Jim's bitter aria on his return to a changed country--I'm sure one day the rhyming list of postwar cultural touchstones will be acceptable again but for now its hard to take these things seriously when it just puts "We Didn't Start the Fire" in your head. Here the gimmick seems too glib and out of place with the otherwise earnest, plainspoken libretto. Also, Urban Aria's otherwise efficiently and elegantly staged production suffered from a stream of intrusive, poor quality overhead projections. I get that this is tempting when dealing with quasi-documentary material, but it just never works, people.
Anyhow, looking forward to seeing what next year's season will be...
P.S. For a more detailed discussion of the opera, see this Parterre review of a Chelsea Opera production from the fall.

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