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November 22, 1980 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-22

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he Michigan Diliy

Saturday, November 22, 1980

Page 5

9pera anyone could love

Performance Guide

In these days when composers have
rown the doors open to veritible
usical anarchy with serialism,
nality, aleatoric processes and other
.ebral and incomprehensible
echniques, it is good to know that there
a Gian Carlo Menotti. Menotti is a
ontemporary composer who writes
rimarily for the musical theater. He
elieves in the power of music to arouse
motions other than puzzlement and
iscomfort as many modern composers
eem to have forgotten. Mr. Menotti
rites direct and accessible tonal
usic, adapting modern idioms where
ppropriate, but never sacrificing
otional impact for novelty.
The School of Music seems to regard
enotti's work highly, because for the
econd time in about a year one of his
orks has been presented, this time
'The Consul", which opened Thursday
t theMendelssohn Theatre. Last year
he cantata "The Unicorn, the Gorgon
nd the Manticore" and the opera
'Help, Help, the Globolinks!" were
taged, but they are trifling works by
mparison with the present work.
onsul" is a story of political
epression and indifference set in post
orld' War Two Europe. Magda Sorel,
ife of the leader of the resistance
ovement in an unspecified country,
arassed by the secret police to tell how
hey can find him. Magda tries
esperately to obtain a visa at the con-
ulate of a neighboring country so she
~an escape and join her husband. Her
eas fall on deaf ears, for the consulate
as- indifferent as the police are

The School of Music Opera Theater
has done a fine job in presenting this
powerful work, and as good a job was
done in presenting the drama as the
music. This is important with "The
Consul", for it is more than an
elaborate staged singing concert, as
some operas seem to be. Menotti calls it
a musical drama, as Richard Wagner
had done a century before, to indicate
the equal importance of both elements.
But whereas Wagner failed to create
the balance he intended, Menotti has
succeeded. His music always un-
derlines the emotional climate while
the drama moves at a good pace, and
his vocal lines vacillate freely between
speech and song as the situation
The singing in the Thursday premiere
was adequate, though in no way spec-
tacular. Most of the voices tended
towards smallness,' but because of the
natural speech-like quality of most of
the vocal music, this was not as big a
drawback as it would be in many other
operas. The most impressive voice of
the performance belonged to Susan
Matthews, who played the desperate
and harried Magda Sorel.
MAGDA IS the most demanding
vocal part in the opera and Matthews
fulfilled the demands, though at times a
more powerful singer would have been
better suited for the part. The other
chief roles were played by Mary San-
tori as the consulate secretary, Jeff
Bradford as John Sorel and Mary
Cresswell as the mother. Bradford
and Cresswell suffered at times from
overextended vocal ranges, and Santori
from a rather small voice that could not
always compete with Matthews in the

more emotional duets between them.
Despite these occasional shortcomings,
their performances were for the most
part adequate and effective.
In keeping with the balance of music
and drama, one of the finest elements of
this production is the staging. Stage
director Patrick Bakman has done a
wonderful job of keeping the action in-
teresting and convincing, and has taken
some liberties which improve the
drama. In the original directions of
"The Consul", there is a crib in the
Sorel apartment which holds a baby
who dies during the course of the opera.
Instead of an anonymous and unseen in-
fant, a small child has been used, and
because he is visible and takes part in
the action, his death is much more
moving than if they baby had been
Another change is in Act Two, when a
magician, in an attempt to impress the
conlsulate secretary, hypnotizes the
people in the waiting room and has
them waltz together. In the current
production, Magda is not hypnotized,
but in a dream-like state, sees her dead
child and her husband, and dances with
them. This fits perfectly in the opera,
since in the other acts there are similar
nightmare sequences.
One aspect of the dramatic side of the
production is far from ideal, though:
the makeup. In the nightmare sequen-
ces, the characters' faces are covered
with red and white makeup which is in-
tended to make them look terrifying,
but which actually makes them look
ridiculous. In only one spot is such
makeup called for by the composer, but
it is used in the final dream sequence
when the characters are specifically
supposed to look natural. The reason
for the poor quality of the makeup is
obviously the short amount of time
there is to apply it, and it would be
much better just to avoid its use
wherever possible.
There were no such problems with
the orchestral part of the production
which was handled by Gustav Meier,
music director and conductor. Meier
led members of the University Sym-
phony Orchestra in a performance
notable for the warmth and fullness of
sound for a group numbering only thir-
ty players. The string section had none
of thescratchinessusually associated
with small opera orchestras and at
See MENOTTI'S, Page 8

The Imaginary Cuckold and The Proposal - The RC
Players perform exuberantly in two one acts by Moliere
and Chekhov. A guaranteed hour of non-stop laughter. At
the East Quad Auditorium, November 22 at 8 p.m. and
November 23 at 2 p.m. Matinee half-price for students.
The Runner Stumbles - Playwright Milan Stitt crits
organized religion and gives it only one star. The Ann Ar-
bor Civic Theatre's produttion is somewhat bearable due
to the talents of the two leads. At the AACT Main Stage,
Main and William, November 21-23, and 28-30 at 8 p.m.
No More Masks - An exploration of individuality
through music,'dance, poetry and mime by the new Quiet
Revolutions Theatre Co. At the Canterbury Loft, 332 S.
State (over Bivouac), November 23-25 at 8 p.m.
Eccentricities of a Nightengale - A rewrite of Ten-
nessee Williams' Summer and Smoke about a fading
Southern belle who yearns for love. The leads are weak
but Kendra Chopician of the Department of Theatre and
Drama has done an intelligent staging of this seldom
produced work. At the Trueblood Theatre in the Frieze
Building, November 22 at 8 p.m.
The Police/XTC - Both bands flavor their pop with
disparate influences: The Police season theirs lightly with
reggae and other third world rhythms while XTC add a
substantial dose of arty experimentalism. Both bands are
touring to support new albums that have received
decidedly mixed reactions and both bands are rumored to
benefit greatly from the studio-to-stage transition. In
other words, a solid-double bill. Sunday, November 23,
Masonic Auditorium, Detroit 8:00 p.m.
Devil Dogs/RUR/Retro - the Dogs are chanteuse Lydia
Lunch's new vehicle, and judging from the strength of the
last band she brought to Ann Arbor (Eight Eyed Spy),
they'll be well worth a listen - the bands consist of two
former Spies and former Ann Arborite Stanley Adler on
bass. Opening are RUR, a constantly changing Detroit
band that centers around two very good guitarists and the
tight, but marginally talented Retro. Monday, November
24 Second Chance 516 E. Liberty Music supposedly will
start at 9:00 p.m.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God - Werner Herzog's crazily
beautiful film has the surreal, hypnotic internal logic of a
visionary fever dream. Klaus Kinski is frozen into various
fearsome images as a mad Spanish conquistador whose
insanity gains grandeur as his party's journey into the
South American jungle becomes increasingly chaotic and
desperate. Saturday, November 22, MBL 3,7:00 and 10:20.
Picnic at Hanging Rock - Someday someone will realize
what an ideal double feature this and Aguirre would make

- until then, you'll have to take a walk from one side of
MLB to the other in order to get thoroughly doped-out on
the slowed-down aesthetic fix of each. Based on an
historical incident in which several turn-of-the-century
Australian schoolgirls mysteriously disappeared during
an outing, the film is best described as an existential puz-
zle; there's no overt violence or sex, but the atmosphere is
thick with sensuality, repression and hidden evil. Filmed
in dazzling pastels by Peter Wier, Picnic is a dark,
fascinating, elusive dose of mysticism - it may well be
about nothing at all, but the mystery at its core keeps you
riveted, at least three-fourths of the way. Saturday, MLB
4,7:30 and 9:45.
Cruising and Love Camp 7 - These two merit inclusion
because of their historical significance: the Ann Arbor
midnight-movie circuit has finally discovered sado-
masochism! Cruising is, alas, rather sour seaminess,
William Friedkin's once-notorious, too-easily-forgettable
crime thriller about a killer cruising gay leather bars.
Knives plunge graphically into torsos, and it's hard to
care - the movie is that dead. Love Camp 7 is rated X
("Untold violence! Inhuman cruelty!") and for all we
know may turn out to be a classic on a par with Ilsa, She-
Dog of the SS. What do you want from the Arts Page, good
taste? Saturday, midnight, Ann Arbor Theatre. Foolish
Wives - More immorality, this time for cultured
cineastes. Erich Von Stroheim directed this drama in
1922, and its lip-smacking embracement of "continental"
decadence over all-American monogamy and fair play
now seems fascinatingly mature for the era, at times even
perversely sarcastic in its put-down of conventional
Goodness. Sunday, November 23, MLB 3, 7:00.
Variety-Another surprisingly sensual silent film,
visually adventurous in its attempt to convey the
physicality of the passions between three European
trapeze artists. Emil Jannings is brutishly powerful as a
simple man whose discovery of his careless' wife's in-
fidelity triggers a violently moralistic revenge. Monday,
November 24, Lorch Hall, 7:00 and 9:00.
It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra's masterpiece of
maudlin Americana, in which all the hokey stops are
pulled out and the result is, somehow, true and moving.
James Stewart is Mr. Joe Average (again), questioning
the worth of a seemingly failed life until a twist of fantasy
shows him the error of his nihilism. Tuesday, November
25, Lorch Hall, 7:00 and 9:05.
Camille - All that M-G-M stuffed-furniture opulence
has lent this adaptation of Dumas a certain heavy, dated,
kitschy bogus-culture flavor. But it's all much more than
worthwhile for the opportunity to stare at Garbo - still
more a magical presence than a performance, but who
cares? Wednesday, November 26, MLB at 7:00.



positive review!

5th Ave. at Liberty 761-9700
i TH E
7:10, 9:00
'SAT, SUN-1:30, 3:20
5:20, 7:10, 9:00
Sot,.Svn $1.50 ti! 2:00

So ... what was I saying? Oh yeah. A
few of you wiseacres caught the
comedy revue at the Union ballroom
last Thursday and Friday, and wanted
to find out what us arrogant Daily
critics had to say about it. All right, say
you. It was corny at times; a few of the
bits didn't quite come off; sophomoric,
silly. A few abrupt lighting changes,
some awkwardly long pauses while
crew scurried around changing the sets
But in the midst of the flurry of the Sun-
day Funnies' second production
ever-they are, after all, a relatively
G7ie ยง49tf
Sganarelle The Proposal
or by Chakhov
The Imaginsm Cuckold
by Moliere
November 20-22-8.pm
November 23-2 pm Matinee
% price for students
Admission $2.00
R.C. Auditorium

new group-there were flashes of fun-
ny, moments of hilarity and true wit.
Polished professionals they ain't, but
you must admit: The kids in the Funnies
have talent.
First, an aside to the uninitiated. The
Sunday Funies are a student theatrical
comedy troupe modeled after Second
City and the Not Ready for Prime Time
Players. In its most recent incar-
nation-the cast and production team
go through frequent personnel changes,
as people graduate or drop out because
of other commitments-The Funnies
show was written and directed by An-
thony Lembke (who also produced) and
Steve Kurtz, with a cast of ten, mostly
enthusiastic non-theatre students.
IN ITSELF, this is a novelty-a
university stage production without a
prof or grad Student lurking in the
wings. Not that Kurtz and Lembke
needed any guidance as to theatre
technique. The show ran smoothly,
evenly, from the opening (in which
Kurtz himself came on to go over the
typos in the printed programs with the
audience) to the curtain calls, in which
the cast waltzed with each other, to the
tune of scattered applause. Although
the atmosphere was that of a dormitory
talent show, with friends of the cast
yelling "Hey, Kurtz!" and "She doesn't
really smoke!" from their seats-the
Funnies seemed determined to put on a
real, professional show, and so they did.
The format of the show, like that of
Second City or SNL, is sketches, with a
couple of musical routines thrown in.
What Kurtz and Lembke's scripts lack
in sophistication (actual Funnies joke:
"Did you ever have your appendix
out?" "Yes, but I got lonely and had it
put back in again") and "New Com-
medy" shock tactics-they tend toward
the warm, gentle, and slap-happy,
unlike most modern youth
comics-they make up for in choice
wording and wit. One sketch of theirs
featured in the Funnies' Public Access
TV production and also performed at
the Union show, is, for sheer bombast
and snappiness, almost on a par with
"Who's On First?" or Monty Python's
Dead Parrot routine. In it an innocent

passive soul applying for a driver's
license becomes the victim of a sadistic
Secretary of State employee who bom-
bards him with a non-stop stream of
strange commands and non-sequiters:
EMPLOYEE: (Out of the blue)
You want a date with my sister?
EMPLOYEE: You want your driver's
license renewed?
EMPLOYEE: You want a date
with my sister?
VICTIM (Reluctantly): Yes.
ONE SKETCH is a gem of mood,
lighting, and other theatre gimmicks. A
woman (Linda Gross),and her husband
(Mike Mueller) get into a fight over his
turning on to the TV set instead of her;
she retaliates by switching on the
vacuum cleaner (sound effect supplied
by an offscreen Funny). He retaliates
in kind, and so does she, until the din of
household appliances is deafening.
Then a fuse is blown; he lights a can-
dle; they make up, get into a romantic
mood; then, the power, and the noise,
comes on again.
Even when the material was a little
weak, the actors bluffed it out. One
rather trite, obvious bit-about a group
therapy session for junk food addic-
ts-real original, there-was rescued
by Gross' agonized, abandoned por-
trayal of an obsessed junkie who star-
ted on Doritos and who goes into with-
drawal pangs while the others chant at
her, "Crunchy, crunchy, crunchy,
Nestles crunch is so crunchy.. ." Other
performances worthy of note: Audrey
Levin as a tweedy, prissy Boston prin-
cess who is leered at, verbally
harrassed, and finally bound and
gagged during a debate between Har-
vard and two boorish students from
Ferris State, and Mark Renner, in a
parody of Star Wars, in which he plays
the scruffy, pinball-playing robot
sidekick of a juvenile delinquent named
Duke Shoplifter (Dale Matcheck).
So there you wiseacres! I didn't rip it
apart, much to your disappointment!
I'll go further: the Funnies are, in my
book, one of the most exciting things
going on the Washtenaw county theatre



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