UO Opera Theater Brings Broadway Pizazz

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), June 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

UO Opera Theater Brings Broadway Pizazz


Byline: Marilyn Farwell For The Register-Guard

This year, before giving its annual opera performance in Eugene, the University of Oregon Opera Theater took its show on the road, first to Lakeview and then to that ultimate preview venue, New York City.

Having just returned from what, by all reports, was an exhilarating time in the Big Apple, the students put on a confident and impressive production called "Faces of Love: Contemporary American Opera and Song."

Interspersed with some rabble-rousing songs from two fine university a cappella groups, Divisi and On the Rocks, and from individual vocalists who must have caught Broadway fever while in New York, Friday night's presentation highlighted four twentieth-century, one-act operas.

The operas ranged from the well-known to the obscure. All were in English, and all but one was a comedy.

Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Telephone" shared its opening night in 1947 with his other one-act work, "The Medium," and both quickly became known commodities. Menotti, who also wrote the libretto, depicted one woman's obsession with the relatively recent "two-headed monster," the telephone.

Lucy would rather talk on the phone than listen to her boyfriend in person. Little did Menotti know that today, more than sixty years later, most people have their cell phones, which were the phones of choice in the opera, glued to their ears. Lauren Green sang Lucy with a voice that shows much promise while veteran Gene Chin as Ben sang with excellent projection, phrasing and diction.

"Broken Pieces" by Daron Hagen, with libretto by Barbara Grecki, was written in 2005 and displayed spiky, modernist music in a gentle story of two people who glimpse the possibility of romance with each other. The singers, Catherine Olson and David Fertal, handled the difficult music well, but the chamber orchestra, conducted by Vu Nguyen in what was the West Coast premiere of the orchestrated version, often overpowered the singers.

Seymour Barab's wry "The Ruined Maid," from 1981, displayed the tunefulness that has made him a major composer of children's operas. Following a Thomas Hardy poem, the story tells of a former maid who meets her once-rich employer. …

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