Brillian t musicianship highlights
Music School's 'Magic Flute'
The Michigan Daily-Saturday, April 1, 1978-Page 5
Oates: Portrait of a poet
By JEFFREY SELBST
F ALL the Mozart operas, The Magic Flute is per-
haps the most musically delicious. It deals in heavy
lyricism and light pyrotechnics with equal success, and
the magic in the inconsequential plot is translated
beautifully by even the most minute orchestral phrases.
This is particularly true in the overture. When Ingmar
Bergman filmed this opera three years ago, the only way
he could convey this feeling on celluloid was to 4ilm the
faces in the audience listening to the overture, and one
could feel anticipation and delight watching other people
expressing the same. This makes it clear just how im-
potent words become in describing the music.
The Music School's production, which opened Thursday
night at (unusually) the Power Center, was vocally quite
good. This is not surprising - the School is known for its
operatic presentations. Where the production perhaps fell
short of the mark was in the acting department.
The Magic Flute
by W.A. Mozart
libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
Tamino .......... ......... Randy Lambert
Three ladies........Mary Elizabeth Smith
Queen of the Night..........Lauran Fulton
Monostatos..................... Gene Sager
Pamina............ Jacqueline Paige Green
Sarastro.......... ......Carlos Chasusson
Papagena.................. Eileen S. Moreman
English translation by Ruth and Thomas Martin
Ralph Herbert, direct or
Gustav Meier, musical director
virtue. Sigh. This is really too much to take just after din-
ner. I get heartburn.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND: Marie-Therese, empress of
Austria, hated the Masons. They were considered wicked.
But Mozart and Schikaneder (the librettist) were Masons.
Guess who the Queen of the Night is yet? Yup.
So they chose to perform The Magic Flute in
Metropolitan Opera style, which means standing-and-
singing. This might halve been deliberate. After all, the
music is heavily stylized, both for effect and because of
the traditions of the time. It is pockmarked with Virtuosic
candenzi (for the Queen, who has in Act II one of the most
spectacular arias ever written) and is written in set pieces
with connecting dialogue. That is another custom, for
this was Singspiel, not opera; Singspiel was like the
musical comedy of Mozart's day.
Randy Lambert, who sang Tamino opening night (and
will again tonight) is Pavarotti-shaped. He has a lovely,
clear voice, and gave a faithful if uninspiring performan-
THE THREE Ladies, played by Mary Elizabeth Smith,
Carol Madalin, and Kathleen Segar, attendants of the
Queen of the Night, were superb. Each was alluring, acted
their parts, and sang - well, what can I say? Their trio
work was of the utmost precision, and their voices were
Pamina also acted. Jacqueline Paige Green played the
princess as a bit of a minx, which is fine. Dignity is im-
plied by the role, but for heaven's sake, the whole thing
has so much dignity that it barely moves, and it's nice to
see someone disregarding convention for a change. She
sang her numbers with aplomb and grace.
The Queen of the Night, Lauran Fulton, had a bit of a
thin voice for the role. She simply couldii't project beyond
the tenth row (which brings me to another point - why not
Mendelssohn? Such a delightful theater. Why put this
show on in the cavernous Power?) but her technical
facility is amazing.
PAPAGENO WAS very amusing and well-sung. David
Parsons did a nice job, prancing about as Mozart's ver-
sion of Kasperl the clown (another convention in Viennese
Songspiel of the period). Eileen S. Moreman was a
The set was a mess. Visually it was lovely, but the
designer apparently was caught between conflicting
desires. He wanted to build a mountain of platforms that
could double as rocky terrain and the steps in front of
Sarastro's palace. Buthe didn't want to push this moun-
tain too far back lest it obscure sight lines. The result is
that the singers had about three feet between the base of
this creation and the point where they would fall into the
The blocking suffered. And oh, did it suffer. Climb up
the steps. Down the steps. Trip over each other as you
walk across the front of the set. Ugh.
Stylizing the already-stylized makes for dull, dull
theater. For my part, most of the time I just pretended I
was home listening to the record player. I can't even begin
to say how good the singing was. The orchestra was also
very fine, with just a few sloppy edges to their playing.
Likewise, I cannot describe the mediocrity of the stage
Oh, well. One further note: The opening night cast per-
forms tonight as well. The Sunday performance will be by
last night's group. It may be a whole different show.
THIS IS THE eternal bane of opera. Most opera suc-
ceeds best played on the stereo. Operas as a whole display
a singular stupidity of plot, and the acting style of most
xoperatic performers over the centuries has been of the
stand-and-sing-school. They are never taught acting: it is
simply not deemed important.
What is surprising, then, is that the Music School has
almost always avoided this pitfall in the past. The
Marriage of Figaro of a couple years ago, last year's
Crucible, and even the Cosi fan Tutte last year were
distinguished by the fact that they were acted as well as
In general, the trend in opera, though, has been towards
acting. Regional opera companies - Detroit's own
Michigan Opera' Theater among them, emphasize the
dramatic. The Music School's Magic Flute, however, does
WHY? WELL, perhaps because the script is preachy
and dull. The opera is a thinly-disguised allegory of the
Masonic movement in late eighteenth-century Austria. As
an historical matter, perhaps it could be interesting. The
plot, however, revolves around a prince who is com-
missioned by the Queen of the Night to rescue her
daughter from the clutches of the wicked sorcerer
Tamino (the prince), and his sidekick Papageno the
birdcatcher, do the following: a) go to Sarastro's castle,
b) try to escape with Pamina (the daughter), c) discover
that Sarastro is Goodness Incarnate, not Wickedness (and
in fact that the Queen herself is wicked), d) endure or-
deals,"and e) join the brotherhood of truth, wisdom, and
By SUSAN BARRY
HER EYES are vast, brown, almost
ant-like. Her nose slips in bet-
ween them and extends to a protrusive
point. The rest of her face quickly
narrows, shortens, and disappears,
emphasizing her eyes. She focuses
them on you, attentive.
"Joyce Carol Oates," you say, noting
the subdued pink turtleneck sweater,
the black wide-belted skirt, and the
black, round-toed flats. You remember
when you owned a pair like that, years
ago. Brushed suede with buckles at the
ankles, and the toes with tiny fingers of
the leather cut out like lace. These
shoes remind you of her remark that
there is a fourteen-year-old girl still
alive in all of us. Only the many little
wrinkles framing her huge eyes betray
her chronological age.
You ask which of her eight novels is
her favorite. She notices the paperback
edition of Childwold you have been
clutching to your notebook, and says, "I
think that any writer likes her latest
book best." You relate your obser-
vation that the women in her novels
lackthe bitterness common to the
characters of other women authors.
Her eyes cloud momentarily and she
agrees. Her women are satisfied with
their gender, savoring the creative
possibilities inherent in sex and
pregnancy. "I try to create characters
that people can identify with," she
WEDNESDAY afternoon the tiny
Rackham Amphitheater is packed. The
audience lines the stairs, leans on the
railings, jams the doorways, and fans
out into the hall. Oates will perform the
"punultimate reading" in the poetry
series, and she begins by relating
several comical incidents that have oc-
curred in previous readings at colleges.
She begins to read two poems about
New York City. Her voice sounds weak,
high-pitched, nasal. She doesn't read
well, running her lines together and un-
deremphasizing the metaphors. When
the audience does not respond to the
punch line she repeats it apologetically.
The second poem concerns stories in
Time and Newsweek about ,the
cameraderie that prevailed during the
New York power blackout. It is entitled
"Gala Power Blackout of New York
City," and it describes the cheerful at-
mosphere in which neighbors help each
other cart their newly-looted merchan-
dise into their houses.
Oates calls her poetry awkward and
clumsy. She jokes about her bad luck
and tells stories of the absurdity of
some of her experiences. Reading her
lengthy poem "He Traveled By Jet Fir-
st Class to Tangier," she wails, "I
forgot to bring my epic poem." It is
11,000 lines long, but she has lost it in a
stack of papers that blew away.
SHE SPEAKS about her awe of
eighteenth century fiction. Detached
literary forms, such as irony and satire,
that deal with subjects so essential and
real to the contemporary human con-
dition as poverty and death, disturb
her. Her own work deals with such sub-
jects soberly, placing them under in-
Her serious poems are more
profound, her introductions poetic. She
says of one of her poems that seems to
get longer and longer, "I take it out of
the drawer and it has added lines, as if
they have written themselves."
But essentially her poetry cannot be
compared to her fiction. Her fiction has
a rambling, abstractly rhyming, com-
fortably poetic quality. Her poems
soundmore like prose. She loves her
poems, but 'only her fiction seems
enlivened by her love.
The audience appears to be em-
barrassed, in spite of Oates' efforts to
put them at their ease. A few volunteer
questions clumsily. She is asked why
she chooses particular forms of ex-
pression to convey ideas. Fiction, she
explains, is a "divine form. There is
.something about taking a person
through space and time. What we do in
prose fiction is to give life to different
forms of consciousness that is not our
own primarily:" Poetry differs in that it
is "expression of our private selves -
dealng in abbreviated form with
OATES TALKS of her interest in
characters who have obsessions. She
reads a poem called "Addiction," and
explains that everyone has the potential
for paranoidactions similar to those of
Joyce Carol Oates
"cranks," but most people repress
them. Someone in the audienceobjects
to the term "cranks," and Oates
apologizes. "I'm sorry, I made a
facetious remark," she explains,
inquiring facetiously "are you a
But she admits that few people can be
quite as obsessed as an artist with his
art. "Art is a fanaticism," she declares,
but a fanaticism that communicates."
Although she is only scheduled to an-
swer questions for half an hour, Oates
continues for over an hour. Finally
someone asks her what kind of music
she likes. Music, she replies, explores
"a consciousness that is not verbal," it
"touches some chord in us that is so
very deep that we cannot articulate
it." Every day, before. she begins to
write, she practices difficult com-
positions by Bach or Chopin on the
piano to activate her own creative
muse. "There's nothing in language
that .can come close to Chopin's
preludes," she explains.
Oates smiles modestly and gracefully
concludes the session. She has been wit-
ty, clever, and sometimes profound.
Those in the audience who have read
her fictin, expecting something in her
poetry of a similar quality, are
probably somewhat disappointed.
Those who have only heard her name
might wonder what lies behind the fact
of her popularity. A brief poetry
reading simply does no justice to the
genius of Joyce Carol Oates.
WASHINGTON (AP)-Three intern-
ships in health sciences library
management for 1978-79 will be offered
by the Council on Library Resources
Inc. and the National Library of
The aim of the program is to provide
"opportunities for mid-career
librarians to be exposed to and par-
ticipate in all facets of health sciences
Beginning in September 1978, interns
will spend one year working with the
director and administrative staff of a
leading academic health sciences
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By GERRY PROKOPOVICH
A FAMILY atmosphere prevailed at
the Ark Thursday night as Mar-
tha Burns entertained a small, recep-
tive audience with a pleasing variety of
traditional music. The Ann Arbor
native displayed her skills on guitar,
fiddle, and mandolin, as well as of-
fering versatile, authentic old-time
Wearing a flannel shirt and jeans,
Burns began the performance by
singing several interesting traditional
songs, the names of which were unfor-
tunately left unmentioned. Before her
third song, there started an evening-
long struggle with a borrowed capo that
resisted her every effort to change
keys. Overcoming this difficulty, she
played the beautiful Carter Family
tune "Dixie Darling," inserting several
quiet and competent instrumental
Following this was the Depression
classic "Hard Times," in which the
audience joined in for the chorus. Burns
then switched to fiddle, accompanied
by Bill Myer on guitar, and played
several Irish-accented tunes in a light,
easy style reminiscent of J.P. Fraley.
An absorbed look came over Burns'
face during the fiddle numbers, and her
concentration was well-rewarded in the
effect her fine, unpretentious style had
upon the audience.
satility delights Ark
CHANGING THE MOOD completely,
she then sang "the most morbid song I
know," a haunting a capella ballad en-
titled "The Old Church Yard." Her
hard-edged, slightly nasal voice was at
.its best on this and other ballads.
Returning to the guitar and its stubborn
capo, she sang the humorous "Get
Away, Old Man, Get Away," warning
the girls: Don'tever,,arr, n old man,
Tell you the reas on why
is lips are all tobacco-chewed,
Hs chin is never er
The second set centered on songs
about train wrecks, cowboys, and the
Depression. Burns' stage presence,
which had been shakey on occasion
during the opening, now became
relaxed and confident. She sang the an-
ti-Prohibition song "Don't Let the
Women Vote," the old favorite
"Darling Nellie Gray," and the famous
ballad "Barbra Allan."
IN IBETWEEN songs, she discussed
their origins and pointed out that the
folk tradition was still alive: "I learned
this song from a friend in Calumet who
learned it from a record. When I finally
heard the record, my version was com-
pletely different." She observed that
much of the tradition is perpetuated in
the cities rather than in the country
nowadays. "If I hum a tune and then
you hum it, that's tradition."
Enjoy our air conditioned
luxury and our heated
Very low summer rates with
short term summer leases.
Stop by or call.
Picking up her mandolin, she played
an instrumental, "Grand Picnic," then
returned to the fiddle. Gone was the
look of intense concentration she had
shown earlier; instead, she smiled, oc-
casionally commenting "I like this
part," as she played. For her last few
numbers, Burns sang the amusing
"Hard Core Crazy Money Craving
Folks," another train wreck song, a
song about a cello player that she
described as "the silliest song I know,"
and finally the Uncle Dave Macon ver-
sion of "Goin' Back to Dixie." She was
quickly brought back for an encore and,
at the insistence of some friends, per-
formed "Lucky Lindy." She followed
this with a sentimental cowboy song to
close the show. The crowd responded
enthusiastically; many stayed to
congratulate Burns on her excellent
performance, and the evening ended on
a pleasant note.
y , , "
a ' S
q OJOA % .
will be speaking
Sunday, April 12, 1978
East Quad - Room 126
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