PITTSBURGH OPERA'S 'THE LONG WALK' IS A SMART, EXPLOSIVE SUCCESS [Corrected 01/24/18]

By Reynolds, Jeremy | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

PITTSBURGH OPERA'S 'THE LONG WALK' IS A SMART, EXPLOSIVE SUCCESS [Corrected 01/24/18]


Reynolds, Jeremy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The following CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION appeared on January 23, 2018: The Pittsburgh Opera is performing "The Long Walk," which continues Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at Pittsburgh CAPA Theater, Downtown. A headline in Monday's paper named the wrong cultural group.

Pittsburgh Opera's Saturday production of "The Long Walk" was a smart, compelling testament to the quality of the opera's resident artist program.

"The Long Walk" refers to a soldier's walk toward a live bomb, as well as his psychological journey home after the war. The two-act opera is based on Iraq war veteran Brian Castner's written account of his time in the military's Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit and his tortured reintegration into civilian and family life.

Composer Jeremy Howard Beck partnered with librettist and playwright Stephanie Fleischmann to adapt Mr. Castner's story to the stage, and the "The Long Walk" premiered in summer 2015 at Opera Saratoga.

Saturday's production in the Pittsburgh CAPA Theater, Downtown, starred resident artists Benjamin Taylor and Leah de Gruyl as Mr. Castner and his wife ,Jessie, respectively. Both singers delivered their roles with rich, full-toned voices, their vocal palettes amply covering the complex array of mental baggage the real Mr. Castner brought home into the bedroom.

The narrative is disjointed, even chaotic - memories of Iraq blur and cover real-time domestic events, dinner, a birthday party, a bedtime story - while other soldiers or figures from Mr. Castner's past sing in counterpoint to the protagonist's home life. Scenes shift without pause, leaping forward and backward in time at points and juxtaposing civilian and military life side-by-side at others.

Glen Lewis led the pit orchestra, beginning with a simple, rhythmic pulse to accompany Mr. Taylor as he ran in place through his opening aria. Mr. Taylor spends much of the opera running to escape the "Crazy," as he calls it, the suffocating feeling and memory loss caused by mental damage sustained from being close to hundreds of explosive shockwaves.

Mr. …

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