Modern Adaptation of Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen”
Chicago’s historic and newly resurrected Studebaker Theatre is the place for a modern “reimagining” opera from Henry Purcell by the Chicago Opera Theatre and includes the Haymarket Opera Orchestra and includes the California-based performance troupe Culture Clash.
“Regietheater“ is German for director's theater and is a term that refers to the modern practice of allowing a director total freedom in devising the way a given opera is staged so that the creator's original, specific intentions or stage directions can be changed, together with major elements of geographical location, chronological situation, casting and plot. Typically such changes may be made to point a particular political point or modern parallels which may be remote from traditional interpretations.
COT’s General Director Andreas Mitisek, puts his own personalized and modern political spin on Purcell’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic with an edgy and hilarious examination of the messes mere mortals make of relationships.
History of The Fairy Queen
The original The Fairy Queen of 1692 was a Restoration spectacular and a sign of the coming 18th century vogue for Italian opera. It was originally an extravaganza filled with swans, dancing monkeys and green savages. It was the first stage show in England with a scene in Chinese taste and had an enormous cast of singers, dancers, chorus, actors and acrobats. Its twelve-foot high working fountain and six real live monkeys have become notorious in theatrical history. In COT’s production we do not get any of that.
COT’s Modern Twist
Ron and Tanya, known to some as Oberon and Titania, are preparing to throw a party to celebrate Ron’s birthday at “Fairy Queen” a night club in sultry Las Vegas. The party planning comes to halt when Tanya discovers Ron flirting with one of the club’s dancers. In a haphazard attempt to fix the blunder, Puck (the club owner) offers Ron a mysterious juice from a cactus flower to renew Tanya’s love. The concoction does as promised, but cupid’s arrow has missed its mark. The magic potion finds its way into several unwitting hands causing lovers’ eyes to wander, lines of sexual orientation to blur, and hilarious chaos to arise. Shakes, a drunken poet, stands readily by to trade his sonnets for drinks and give his unsolicited advice to the lost lovers.
The witty, clever and naughty libretto, adapted from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is performed in English and the song “Hush, No More” is simple, brilliant and a lullaby. The Fairy Queen is brilliantly conducted by Jory Vinikour and the music of the Restoration is enchantingly performed by the Haymarket Opera Orchestra. Immediately at the overture, I knew this production would be a pleasure to hear with much of it played on instruments of that age.
The cast of The Fairy Queen includes the talented, gorgeous and diva-like Kim Jones in the role of Tanya/The Fairy Queen. Ms. Jones is alum of Lyric Opera’s Ryan Opera Center and has performed often on the Lyric stage. She is a favorite of the Houston (very) Grand Opera and has toured internationally. Cedric Berry sang the role of Ron/The Fairy King to much success. Mr. King along with Ms. Jones was exceptionally well cast and the two were a powerhouse of sound, passion and eventual love.
His bass baritone is powerful, never forced and I understood every word he sang. He is also a fine actor— something rarely seen in today’s opera. Marc Molomot was Fairy Queen Club owner Puck and Roberto Gomez as Shakes the Poet. Ryan Belongie as Lysander and Darryl Taylor as Herman made a very funny gay counter-tenor couple freshly married. Scott Brunscheen as Demetrius and Alexandra Martinez as Helena made a unique impression as a 3-year on again off-again couple sent to Vegas by their therapist to explore one another’s vulnerabilities. The entire quartet of these two loving couples possesses perfect voices and control, and together with Ms. Jones and Mr. Berry were worth the price of admission alone.
Tanya’s final line summed up the evening: “My grandma used to tell me: ‘you fall in love by chance but you stay in love by choice.’”
Friday, November 11, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 13, 3 p.m.
Studebaker Theatre, 410 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL.
$39 -$125 can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or via chicagooperatheater.org.
Photos: Liz Lauren