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June 01, 1984 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1984-06-01

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ge 8 Friday, June 1, 1984 The Michigan Dai
The Metropolitan delivers


By Anne Valdespino
A BEJEWELED audience in Detroit's
Masonic Temple was dressed for a
gala occasion: The Grand Opera
Association's presentation of New
York's Metropolitan Opera. In
celebration of the company's 100th an-
niversary a host of musical luminaries
prepared a week long engagement, in-
cluding Zandoni's Francesca da
Rimini, Verdi's Ernani, Wagner's Die
Walkure, Mozart's Abduction from
Seraglio, Puccini's Tosca, and Hendel's
The musical birthday party began
with Peter Grimes by British 20th cen-
tury composer Benjamin Britten. The
opera is set on the coast of England; the
musical score and set designs (the
Met's own lavish ones brought from
New York), created the atmosphere of
the sea. Mist and 17th-century sailor
costumes were a visual feast, while
harp and clarinet arpeggios and
sustained strings were an aural
banquet that conjured up images of the
relentless waves of the cold Northern
Central to the flavor of the opera was
the chorus. Dressed in browns, grays
and sepias, they were the simple fisher
folk whose harsh judgement of Grimes
(he is acquitted of the accidental death
of his first apprentice) drives him to
the brink of insanity. The Met's Opera
chorus was more than professional in
its role.
Their ensemble in the contrapuntal
passages that Britten is fond of writing
was masterful. The sheer beauty of
their sound is a delectable treat for
audiences unaccustomed to hearing so
many trained voices singing
Two especially dramatic moments
for chorus occur at the end of Act I and

the beginning of Act II. In the pub
scene, a distraught Grimes disturbs the
local alehouse by proclaiming a poetic
vision. The violent raving of his Aria is
followed by a pause as the patrons ex-
press a silent realization of his mad-
ness. The chorus' rendition of "Old Joe
Has Gone Fishing," Britten's
arrangement of a traditional sea chan-
ty, restores the jovial atmosphere to the
In Act II, the chorus is essential in
setting the moral undercurrents of a
tragic scene. Schoolmistress Ellen Or-
ford asks the apprentice John about a
bruise on his neck, correctly suspecting
Grimes of brutality. Her aria is inter-
spersed with the foreboding underscore
of the townspeople singing hymns in
church. The scene is permeated by a
new sound, the organ, which lends a
somber tone to this tuning point in the
Ellen is Grimes' only confidant and
the woman he dreams of marrying. The
beginnings of her mistrust spell doom
for the poor fisherman, who by this
time is dangling from a thin emotional
thread. The long, soulful phrases of the
offstage chorus reminds Ellen that she
must attend to her moral respon-
sibilities, in spite of her love for the
misguided Grimes.
In Monday's production, this
touching scene was marred by Johan-
na Meier's portrayal of Ellen. In con-
trast to the members of the chorus, her
singing sacrificed clarity of diction for
beauty of tone, very disappointing as
this opera (unlike many others) was
performed in English. Over and over
this diva seemed more concerned with
the music, her part in particular, than
the drama. Her character remained
fairly expressionless and her gestures
seemed arbitrary.
Her role paled still more in com-
parison to Canadian primo uomo
(leading man) Vickers's. As an actor he
reigned superb in the role of a tortured
fisherman struggling to maintain his



Renata Scotto starts in fear in the Metropolitan Opera's production of
Francesca da Rimini, one of six shows in the company's current tour.
mental health in the face of the town- Grimes's escape is followed by some
speople's increasing hostility. comic relief. A lynch mob from the
From the beginning he is a man town arrives to find the situation ap-
alone. He takes a defiant stand in the parently normal and they have a good
defendant's wicket, reprimanding the laugh at what they think are their hasty
town gossip with the retort, "I don't conclusions. It is only when Balstrode
like interferers". Even his body enters that an eerie atmosphere is re-
language was in character as he established. Blue-white lighting and the
staggered and reeled under the weight queer oscillating sounds of high-pitched
of his terrible burden of conscience, and strings and celeste, first heard after the
he began to transform into the creature boy fell, return the instant Balstrode
that the townsfolk assumed he was opens the door.
initially. He sneered and scowled, scar- Only during the last act, after many
cely making eye contact with anyone excruciating and technically difficult
except Ellen, his apprentice, and mad scenes, did Vickers begin to show
Balstrode, a retired sea captain who signs of strain - understandable, as he
sympathizes with him. is one of the senior members of this fine
Most memorable in this production company. For the most part, his per-
was the scene at Grimes's hut. His formance brought the best of music and
crude one room apartment was framed drama together. Vickers's tenor voice
and bisected to allow the audience ac- was strong, true, and possessed the
cess to the inner world of the anti-hero. crystalline diction necessary to project
In this realm Vickers delivers a power- to all areas of the large auditorium.
ful monologue of false pride in a The exceptional chorus and orchestra
hopeless situation with the aria "In made the opera's supporting roles fall
dreams I've built". Bit all is lost. As right into place. These attributes were
Grimes rushes his apprentice out the magnified times ten with a stellar per-
back door, the boy plummets to his formance by Vickers. The Metropolitan,
death from a steep cliff immediately Opera tour makes driving to Detroit
behind the shack. well worth the trip.
Fahey-finger-pickin' good
T HE GUITAR is a simple looking label, Takoma Records.
instrument. After all, it isn't Fourteen Takoma albums later, and
anything more than a hollow piece of a Warner Bros. or Vanguard sprinkled
wood with a few strings across it. in between, Fahey remains respected
But that simple looking instrument has on all fronts. In addition to his own
made a habit of attracting to it in- musical successes, he is credited with
novator after innovator and virtuoso af- having "discovered" Leo Kottke and
ter virtuoso. signing him to Takoma.
Not the least of these virtuosos is Fahey is playing Saturday night at 8
John Fahey, considered the father of p.m. at the Ark. It is his first time ev-
the modern fingerpicking method. er to the Ark, and his first Ann Arbor
Fahey has been one of the country's stop in quite some time. Tickets are $6
top folk guitarists for close to two and available in advance from
decades. As a young performer with Schoolkid's and Herb David's as well as
new ideas, Fahey found commercial at the door.
success by forming his own record - Joseph Kraus


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