IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Indianapolis Opera production takes wing

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

The sole on-stage character in Dominick Argento’s one-act opera “A Water Bird Talk” isn’t given a name. He’s just “The Lecturer,” an anonymous gent whose off-stage wife has somehow made him the guest speaker at a ladies’ social club event.

The Lecturer’s subject: water birds (although he would have preferred to speak of spiders). And he’s got some notes and slides to share.

But the Lecturer shares more than his knowledge of our feathered friends. He shares his discomfort. He shares his awkwardness. And, when his wife temporarily leaves her vantage point offstage, he shares his deep sadness about the state of his home life.
 

A&E Robert Orth plays a brow-beaten lecturer in Indianapolis Opera production. (Photo Courtesy Indianapolis Opera)

Cliché? It could be. The long-suffering husband under the rule of the can’t-please wife certainly isn’t an original concept. It goes back to the Romans—if not to cave drawings. But as smartly written by Argento and as embodied by the outstanding Robert Orth in Indianapolis Opera’s production (which ran through Nov. 13 at the Basile Opera Center), the cliché is transcended through heartache, intimacy, big-hearted sincerity and theatricality.

Orth (an IO staple, particularly memorable in past Gilbert and Sullivan productions), and Argento are aided and abetted by members of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra under the baton of James Caraher and beautiful video work by Barry Steele. The video—by turns subtle and (in a good way) overwhelming—goes well beyond the representational into something theatrically magical.

What begin as the Lecturer’s standard-issue, Audubon-like images grow, transform and, eventually, draw our sad-sack hero into them. I suspect I’m not the only patron whose first thought at seeing the podium-and-piano minimalist set was “cheap.” But, as established in last season’s “Carmen” and as proven here, IO understands that technology can transform the new Basile performance space into something special.

Of course, technology works best when it’s at the service of content. Here, the expert video production work seamlessly blends with performance and direction, becoming almost an additional character. It allows the emotional punch of “A Water Bird Talk” to take audiences by surprise, starting as comedy—and never losing its sense of humor—but evolving into something deeper.

That surprise is accentuated by the fact that “A Water Bird Talk” has been paired with “Bon Appetit!,” Lee Holby’s trifle of a short opera about Julia Child.

Yes, that Julia Child.

For many, the actual image of this ground-breaking chef has been replaced by the images of imitators—primarily “Saturday Night Live’s” Dan Aykroyd in Child drag (bleeding profusely but still insisting on saving the liver he/she is cooking) and Meryl Streep brilliantly becoming Child in the half-terrific film “Julie & Julia.” For some, I suspect, the decidedly light “Bon Appetit!” could easily pale next to such tour de forces.


A&E Emily Lodine is Julia Child. (Photos Courtesy Indianapolis Opera)

I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed myself, despite Emily Lodine’s solidly professional turn in the lead. The piece never truly soars in the way “A Water Bird Talk” does. It never strays from its source text—a chocolate-cake-making episode of her show. And vocally, it doesn’t offer many opportunities to show off. (It was originally written for Jean Stapleton, an accomplished musical-theater character actress, but not really an operatic one.)

But that’s part of its raison d’etre. “Bon Appetit!,” to be enjoyed, needs to be approached at that level: as a palate-cleanser.

Its resonance comes from the realization that it isn’t about exceptional or stand-out moments in its character’s life. It’s not about showing off (as, let’s be honest, a lot of opera is). Instead, it’s about the ordinary, day-to-day work of being oneself. That’s not always riveting, funny or moving. But it’s truthful.

And, yes, I know I just wrote about two operas and barely mentioned the music.•

__________

This columns appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
thisissue1-092914.jpg 092914

Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

ADVERTISEMENT