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October 18, 1999 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-18

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 18, 1999

Bolcom's operatic 'Bridge

given grand view in Chicago

By Christopher Tkaczyk
Daily Arts Writer
CHICAGO - Attempting to fine
tune a masterpiece takes a bit of
effort. Four years of effort, exactly,
in the case of "A View from the
Bridge," the opera based upon
Arthur .Miller's great play of the
same name. Commissioned by the
Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1995,
Music Prof. William Bolcom worked
with longtime friend and librettist

A View from
the Bridge
Lyric Opera of
Oct. 13, 1999
critics. The opera

A r n o l d
Weinstein and
Miller himself
in reinventing
the American
tragedy for the
operatic stage.
The world
premiere pro-
duction opened
Oct. 9 at
Chicago's Civic
Opera House to
a delighted audi-
ence, according
to opening night
is a triumph for

of "A View from the Bridge," their
collaboration brings University tal-
ent full-circle.
Last Wednesday's subsequent per-
formance, the second of nine to be
staged through Nov. 9, opened with
the tense hush of expectation that
surrounds any such unveiling. As for
Bolcom's and Weinstein's efforts,
justice was deservedly done in their
rendition, offering a respectful
vision to Miller and an operatic
score that can justifiably be labeled,
in the words of director Frank
Galati, "the first great opera of the
21st Century."
But "A View from the Bridge"
isn't great - It is grand in the high-
est sense of the term "grand opera."
Italian grand opera, to be more spe-
cific. The Redhook Brooklyn setting
demands the influence of Italian
opera, and such is the case here,
where Bolcom has interspersed high
drama with Italian-American
nuances of '50s doo-wop and bar-
bershop harmony. The result sur-
mounts a tense operatic showcase of
brilliant music and vocal characteri-
zation. In each of Miller's charac-
ters, who all will forever belong to
the genius playright, Bolcom has
fixed their definition within the
score. The confused, selfish Eddie
Carbone, the betrayed Marco, the
innocently troublesome Catherine
and the worn, abandoned Bea are all
well-fed by Bolcom with juicy musi-
cal parts. Each of the singing actors,
who must act as much as they sing to

had hoped to utilize the company
extras in the same manner, but was
restricted. The chorus' role functions
perfectly, offering yet another exam-
ple of how influential grand opera
has been on Bolcom's interpretation.
As is needed for any Greek cho-
rus, a leader has been created of
Alfieri, the lawyer character who
figures prominently in Miller's play
as a narrator. The opera's Alfieri
mostly views Eddie's actions from
the bridge, and enters into the story
only when legal advice is sought by
Eddie, concerning immigration.
Soprano Catherine Malfitano as
Beatrice reaffirmed her talents as
singing actress. Much of the opera.
emotion and tragedy came through
in her interpretation.
Kim Josephson's Eddie Carbone
reminds one of the authoritarian
father figure that loomed above
America in the '50s. His hold, strong
baritone erupted in all of the
instances where Eddie defies his
own dignity and self-righteousness.
With Josephson, there could be t
other Carbone, unless of course,
less effective performance is
Santo Lanquasto's dark, towering.
set design places the strength and
hope of New York onto a much
smaller stage space. His multimedia'
backdrops, rolling slides 6f
Brooklyn tenements and landscapes
wrap the action into a tight presenta=
tion of theatrical reality.
As of yet, Bolcom's score hasn'
been recorded, a shame for anyon
who delights in hearing the lush, dra-
matic strings which give this
"Bridge" it's eye-opening view. Until
such a recording is made, the only
sampling of the powerful score can
be heard at Chicago's Civic Opera
House, but only through Nov. 2.
For ticket information and
directions, call the Lyric Opera of
Chicago at (312) 332-2244, ex. 50
A limited number of tickets remap
for performances on Oct. 19, 25,
28, Nov. 2, and S.

the University, who boasts both
Miller and Bolcom as sources of
pride. Bolcom, the Ross Lee Finney
Distinquished Professor of Music in
Composition, heads the School of
Music's composition department.
Miller, creator of the American clas-
sics "Death of a Salesman" and "The
Crucible," graduated from the
University in 1938 with a degree in
English literature. With the opening

Photo courtesyof'tyric Opera of Chicago
Mark McCrory, as the betrayed immigrant Marco, forces a knife toward his betrayer, Eddie Carbone, played by Kim Josephson,
while Julian Rambaldi, Catherine Malfitano and others watch in horror.

make the opera work, offered a
healthy portion of tasty performance
for the opera-lover's palate. Bon
appetit, indeed.
Weinstein's words are well chosen
and effective. It is apparent that
much of Miller's work has strongly


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served as an influence, but for opera,
a story has to be condensed and, to
the delight of some and consterna-
tion of others, the words needs to fit
together like pieces of a puzzle. This
"A View from the Bridge" finds its
togetherness in the form of ending
and inner rhymes, sometimes with a
slight tinge of melodrama. But most
effective are Weinstein's dramatic
lines, often biting 'the action with
underlying hints of foreshadow. Of
course, Weinstein was given the best
pieces to work with, having already
been assembled by Miller. Taking it
apart and putting it back together is
a feat to be rewarded, and, in
Weinstein's craft, Miller should
undoubtedly be honored with having
a master at the helm.
With all the physical vocality of

Verdi, Bolcom's score demands
drive and determination of its
singers, coupling with Miller's fasci-
nating drama. Eddie Carbone, a
longshoreman who has taken in
Catherine, the niece of his wife,
Bea, decides to welcome two of
Bea's illegal alien cousins as well,
and keep them hidden from the eyes
of immigration agents. When the
blond Rodolpho capture's
Catherine's heart, Eddie's sleeping
fondness for her emerges and breaks
forth through jealous actions, ulti-
mately betraying the submarines to
the agents.
Eddie is viewed through the eyes
of a charging Greek chorus, used for
social and moral commentary by the
opera's creators. In his original
vision of the drama, Miller, in 1955,


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