You can’t live with him and you can’t live without him…
Perhaps this most modern of aphorisms has cultural roots in the long told Celtic tale about the pains of passions—the story of Tristan and Isolde. Who knew? This same Wagnerian story of these doomed lovers was also captured in an oratorio by Swiss-born composer Frank Martin.
Chicago Opera Theater, yet again, gives us music from little known repertoire, bringing it to us with imaginative flourishes.
Chicago Opera Theater Trademark Minimalism
Chicago Opera Theater’s relatively minimalist staging allows us to hear the music as the main attraction – here from an eight-piece orchestra under the baton of Emanuele Andrizzi with a dozen singers. It is music of passion that pains—at times memorably building and building with repetition like the perseverating lovers who can’t stop their longings for each other. In this staging in the relatively intimate Music Box Theater, we can often look to the violins or cellos when they are sweeping us into another phase of musical reverie or storm.
Director Andres Mitisek has costumed his singers in neutral apparel such as a puppeteer in the background might wear. He gives them long poles to wield—sometimes as waves on a roiling ocean, or as spears, a wedding procession canopy, and more. This morphing kaleidoscope is paired with a video projection backdrop on the large Music Box Theater screen.
The effect of these minimalist touches in costumes and staging is to allow the music to move the story—and it does.
Cast Largely from COT Young Artists Program
With the exception of Bernard Holcomb singing the part of Tristan, the entire cast is either current or former students of Chicago Opera Theater’s Young Artists Program at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. Beautiful voices all—soprano Brittany Loewen’s role of Branghien, the maid who mistakenly gives the love potion at the wrong time, was especially delightful.
The Chicago Opera Theater season continues with another classic re-imagining- “The Fairy Queen” by Purcell re-telling Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For tickets or information call 312 704 8414 or visit https://www.chicagooperatheater.org
Photos: Liz Lauren