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November 10, 1999 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-10

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8 November 10, 1999

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Tomorrow in Daily Arts:
9 Check out reviews of the Food Network's iron Chef" and
tee NBC movie "Leprechaun."

irw ove
picac hes v e
Moral opera ity
U 'Susan
wk t r al ahAo i::a v 10 s
x1 r

Performers of " iyanja" perform the f Cot se d asa n the U.S.
¢ «t

By Chustopher Tkaczyk Christian Science Monitor in 1997. "For
Daily Arts Writer people who are even remotely sensitive,
When Renee Fleming sang the title it has a way of triggering a whole emo-
role in Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah" at the tional area of ourselves we may not ev
Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1993, she re- know exists."
illuminated the wealth and beauty of Floyd's political inspiration for the
American opera. The production featured opera is said to have been a direct result
amazing talent, including that of Samuel r °of the McCarthy hearings of the '50s.
Ramey, and was given an encore staging Set in the rural New Hope Valley of
at the Metropolitan Opera this past April Tennessee, Floyd's opera tells the story
Capitalizing on the recent upsurge of of Susannah Polk, a girl accused of
attention to American opera, the " t immoral behavior by the elders of ' er
University's School of Music Opera church, who discover her bathing nude
Theater will be presenting its own .in a nearby stream. She faces the wrath
"Susannah" this weekend. Although no s '- of the religious community, who bet
famous names will take to the stage, the her and build evidence to prove her su
talent of the University's vocal perfor- posed impurities. The preacher, Blitch,
mance department is first rate, and later finds Susannah alone at home and
should offer, at the very least, a capti- urges her to confess her demons, uhi
valing run. Directed hy professor and -mately convincing her to ted with him.
department chair Joshua Major v(,Her brother Sam discovers the evil twap
"Susannah will set by Blitch and sets out to right he
be conducted by name.
Kenneth Kiesler, Floyd has been a large contributorta>
a man famous for coi sy if tail sth Phytliathy the library ofAmerican opera, with t er
Susannah his direction of Gary Moss and Julia Broxham star in "Susannah" this weekend at the Power Center. one-act and six full-length operas in his
the University's delity is death. Eventually, Dniel isteps name for Susanna's brave saving grace. oeuvre, including "Wuthering Height*
Power Center bands. Two casts in to defend her, and she is abIc to cele- Floyd's opera is the first great "Of Mice and Men," "Willie Stark," and
Thurs.-S.at. at 8 p.m. will alternate per- brate her innocence. American opera after Gershwin's "Porgy "The Passion of Jonathan Wade."
Sunday at 2 p.m. formances, with The Biblical tale, consider'd to be and Bess," and is the most well-known Most recently, coal for the fire under
one performing the first ever great short story, was pre- contemporary opera to break into the American opera has been added to b
Thursday and sented as the beginning of the Book of standardized repertory of regional and Music Prof. William Bolcom, whose
Saturday, and the Daniel in the Greek Theodotion version national opera companies. Much of successful "A View from the Bridge" at
other on Friday of the text, as well as that of the Old Floyd's music has an American folk the Lyric Opera of Chicago recently
and Sunday. Latin, Coptic and Arabic versions. This base, and the influences of Copland in completed a critically-praised premiere,
"Susannah ," prefixed placement possibly can be the score are undoubtable. Sung in The opera, his second at the Lyric fol'
composed in attributed to the description of Daniel in English, "Susannah" is very melodic and lowing 1994's "MeTeague," is bas-
1956, is set in the deep American south the tale as being a "young lad." A clas- lyrical, and commands attention at every upon the now-classic Arthur Miller pW
of "the present" and is based upon the sic morality tale, "Susanna" features the turn. The adaptation of the Biblical story If the University wants to begin a tradi-
Apocryphal tale of Susanna (without heroic triumph of virtue over vice, and works well in its Southern environs, tion of performing American operas, it
the "h"), a wife who is raped by two the narrow escape from death by an proving that opera isn't just a European might consider a Bolcom masterpiece in
elders passing her garden. Because of innocent victim. art form and that the United States is a future years.
the laws of the time, her word is The Hebrew translation of the name great setting for classic tales of woe and Tickets for "Susannah" are available
ignored, and the men explain she will- "Susanna" is "a lily" a symbol of inno- tragedy. at the League Ticket Office. Student
ingly engaged in the affair. The punish- cence and purity. "Daniel" in Hebrew "Music to me is access to the very best tickets are $7 with valid student ID. For
ment for her accused and unproven infi- means "God has judged," an appropriate in human nature," Floyd told the more information, call (734) 764-4500.
Eveming illustrates memory, heartbreak.

By Curtis Zimmermann
Daily Ats Writer
The first Congolese danc i
ever performed in the oiled l
premieres tomorrow niighi aii
Trueblood Theatre.
Even at the rehc;ri for
"Liyanja," it was easy to get a..n I
the emotional intensity ot' so,
The dancing and hard poundin
eussion created a powerful au.' i
radiated through room.
Perhaps this energy is dci
the fact that the performance. wh i
hased on a Central Afria n if,
combines numerous clemen
drama, music and dance. The show
choreographed by Biza apa
mem ber t
t~ nirsirit
-', dance depari-
mesn i le e
Liyan the Ann A r
based p ea
sional Co Iac
Trueblood Theater dance p
Thurs.- Sun. ichini
incldes r a
musicn
various p
the oobe.
producer Moe
Kamler described the intensity of th is
fusion. "There's something qutie
exciting stout it that you 'don't usual-
ly get from music alone' he d.
"Liyanjs" is a retelling of t sior
of Mbombe, who decries tha she wl l
only marry a man who ca t
a wrestling match. The tale fol h 'r
ors whom she defeats. It then tes how
she was confronted by the waroi
Ilele, who, after a fight that lasts for
days, finally subdues and marries hsr.
Another element othe siory
describes how she eats a idc
fruit of knowledge and, as a rsslt,
becomes engulfed in despair his

'mth draws some strik-
sory of Adam and

s i n a recent interview
a w h Oyi nO (Charles F.
G rd ) staeid that the director Dr.
al Nanga doesn't ike the com-
lisin bcaiuse the myth predates
(Ceniia Atfrican contact with
C'hristii. Hut he did explain the
a i h stories. "There are
rt ain ivyr sal aspects to it. One of
Sica ot a human being
sidden fruit that pro-
s idled that the story presented in
a shorter version of the
re t -its myth literally would
tak wsek s to perlorm" OyamO said.
'U se ac ike a repository of oral
nwlde that came from Ancient
huge. hut this little piece
sone is like taking a buck-
ci ssisfomtheocean."
in ws ihis play as an exper-
I Iescriod how he wanted to
tale an rian American perfor-
n sste that broke away from the
m aon troi ons.
'A n ans are a different breed of
peopt and .e deserve our own breed of
heate Jut iiks we created jazz which
wi all over the world and everyone
appia d i thati an American clas-
ia ms is we can create an American
aSo this is not going to
looklikeLurpean ,theater"
a igures that if the perfor-
ma e s successful than the
m d he used to express and
r e rious aspects of the
Atrsan -Sm'rian experience.
t he very least, "Liyanja" promis-
es tohe angging performance that
soines matty music and dance tra-
ditions with new theatrical ideas. But
if the cxpcriment is a success, and
OyaaO ani his associates have creat-
ed a completely new style of
American theater, then the show
sho"ld not be missed.

Evening
Susan Minot
Vintage Books
For Ann Lord, memory is as hot, bright and
ephemeral as a match struck inside the mind. As
she lies dying of cancer, Ann is surrounded by her
children, nurses, friends and relatives, all of whom
drift through her conscious awareness like wind
through the branches of a tree. But when her
daughter brings her a pillow filled with balsam
needles, a gift Ann received as a bridesmaid in a
wedding forty years earlier, she becomes con-
sumed with the recollection of a past romantic
encounter.
"The balsam smell made the torches flare up,"
and Ann Lord is engulfed by a vivid memory
world until the flames of passion, and of her life,
finally burn out.
Susan Minot's "Evening" (new to paperback
from Vintage Books) is poetic and dreamlike,
somber and mournful, tragically beautiful. In her
third novel, Minot deals with many aspects of
human existence. Besides the major themes of
love and memory, she also employs parenthood,
marital relations, aging and death to describe the
complex character of Ann Lord. While Ann in her
death bed watches, in effect, her life pass before
her eyes, Minot concentrates only on specific
moments and events, making us wonder what will
be important enough to occupy our last thoughts
when the time comes.
"Evening" is centered on the July weekend in
Maine during the '50s when Ann meets Harris
Arden at her friend Lila's wedding. Harris is a
mystery at first, wearing dark sunglasses and
revealing little about himself. When he first looks
at her, it is "as if someone had pierced her chest"
Ann and Harris become acquainted very quickly,
and eventually slip away from the rest of the
guests to get to know each other better. After a

brief sexual encounter, Harris reveals that he has a
fiancee who is flying in the next day to be at the
wedding.
Although this is a tremendous blow to Ann, she
is experiencing emotions that she has never felt
before. She has fallen in love. Harris feels the
same way, but when his fiancee arrives and reveals
that she is pregnant with his child, he feels oblig-
ated to stay with her. The long weekend ends in
tragedy with the accidental death of Buddy
Wittenborn, Ann's friend and Lila's brother. Ann
goes back home destroyed, with a dead friend and
a lover she is never to see again.
The rest of Ann's life is described throughout
the book in flowing short sections and vignettes.
Since we are viewing memories through the mind
of Ann, we are not given long explanations of her
three marriages, five children, careers, travels,
and life experiences. It is as if we already know
everything about them. But these short sections
add so much to Ann's character. We are left with
the sense of a rich and multi-faceted personality,
one that would take an entire lifetime to fully
understand.
The novel is framed by conversations between
Ann and Harris that take place in the present day,
but exist only in Ann's mind. In her hazy delirium
of mental deterioration and painkillers, she imag-
ines that Harris comes back to say goodbye. Their
dialogues provide a running commentary on the
events in the book. They describe their emotions,
hopes and fears as the novel's central 'narrative
describes their brief and intimate moments
together forty years before.
This technique, although artful and unique, is
slightly overdone, and usually offers little new
information and insight to the characters and their
experiences.
"Evening," however, is written in such a way as
to give it a floating surreality. Descriptions in the
book are like descriptions of dreams. Dialogue is

written without quotation marks, so at times it is
uncertain who is speaking. Words come slowly out
of the air, not out of people's mouths. This reflects
the clouded state of Ann's mind as she becomes
disassociated with the real world and moves deep-
er into the world of her memory.
What makes "Evening" especially brilliant is
the dramatic use of color and light images. Color
is used heavily throughout the book to signify t;,
vitality of memory. Ann remembers clearly the
colors of the skies, the houses and the clothing
people wore. Her present world is one of despair
and dreary surroundings, but her memories are
paintings of shocking vibrancy. Light is used tt
signify memory itself. Memory illuminates Ann'
mind and shines light on things that she had-
thought were lost forever.
As a minor criticism, a greater explanation dur-
ing certain parts may have helped in making sev-=
eral aspects more understandable. Ann's dead son
is given only a page-long reference near the end41
the book, in a scene where her and her then-hus-
band Oscar receive the horrible news of-his>
drowning. His life before this and Ann's emotion-
al response are all but left out. Also, Buddya.
Wittenborn's death seemed almost too surreal, cre=
ating confusion as to why it was included inithe
book at all.
Still, "Evening," when viewed on its aesthetic
merit alone, is quite extraordinary. We are allowed
inside of the mind of a dying woman, whose ls
dance through a world of youthful passionV
heart-wrenchingly beautiful. When Ann says
goodbye to Harris in the last chapter, we know that,
death has finally claimed her.
A person can stay alive in a ravaged shell of a
body by holding tight to memories. When those
memories leave the mind, life swiftly draws to a
close. The flame grows small and disappears in
twisting strands of rising smoke.
- Ben Goldstein

Graphic M agicia n
Prints from the N on S mon MuseUm
Taeth-e career and life of this
v r nd original 20th-century
Sthrough his print work
Call 4t9-255-8000
Sorrinfornmation
,rn p mber 1956
ii a, } ja
As 0
I"
The Toledo ,useum of Art

I

low-W

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