Monthly Archives: January 2014

Macbeth: Minnesota Opera

0662 Grimsley, Harris

Written by: Chrissi

It’s about that time of year when I doubt that we’ll ever see green again. Sigh.

I’ve been cooped up inside pining for an activity to interrupt my ongoing Project Runway marathon when along came the latest production of the Minnesota Opera season — Verdi’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth! Hallelujah, a bit of beauty to get us through the winter.

1145 Minnesota Opera ChorusMinnesota Opera’s production of Macbeth opened this  past Saturday, January 25 and plays through Sunday, February 2 at the Ordway in St. Paul. It stars the incomparable duo of Brenda Harris as Lady Mabeth and Greer Grimsley as Macbeth. Harris and Grimsley offered powerful vocals throughout the performance with little time off stage. Not to be overlooked was the rich bass-baritone, Alfred Walker playing the role of Banquo. In addition to the powerhouse lead roles, the production featured a full orchestra and a massive chorus under the direction of Michael Christie. At varying points in the production it was almost as if you could feel the sound as it made it’s way off the stage.

The story of Macbeth translates well into an opera. My favorite fun note about this opera is that it was essentially written as a game of Shakespearean telephone. In other words, Verdi was relying on an interpreter translating the play from English to Italian when writing the opera. This resulted in the omission of varying elements of Shakespeare’s original work, though you still receive a complete story.

0501 WalkerMacbeth is a great addition to the 2013-2014 season and offers all of the production quality, innovation, and professionalism you’d expect from a MN Opera production.

Order your tickets online or give the box office a call and let me know how you liked it!

 

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The Phantom of the Opera: Touring Production, The Orpheum

Written by: Anne Mollner of cleverknack.blogspot.com

Hello Pumpsandplaybills readers!

When I was in fourth grade, my parents offered me a ticket to see Phantom of the Opera, and I foolishly turned it down. Ever since, I have sought the opportunity to see it, but it has yet to come back to Omaha, Ne (my homeland), nor has it come anywhere near. Once I realized it had stopped touring, I feared I would never be able to see it and would have to settle for the mediocre movie version. However, I miraculously found out a 25th anniversary tour was happening and that it was going to be in Minneapolis! Easily worth the five and half hour drive in the dead of winter.

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story line, the musical follows a chorus girl, Christine Daae, and the phantom’s obsessive love of her, which is manifested through terror on the playhouse. The show begins 

with an auction that is selling old artifacts from the playhouse. This brings Raoul (Christine’s love), to recollect the tale of the Phantom. The show transforms to the flashback and the audience is brought to the glory days of the playhouse. Throughout the rest of the show, the new managers of the playhouse try to maintain control against the phantom’s demands, Carlotta (the original lead opera singer) tries to maintain her limelight, Raoul tries to love and protect Christine from the phantom, Christine struggles with her connection to the phantom and her idea that the phantom is a shadow of a musical angel promised by her father who has passed away, and the phantom obsesses over Christine and tries to make her not only the star of the playhouse, but also his love.

Phantom has always had a stunning and majestic reputation due to it’s spectacle and intense musical scores. Even though the 25th anniversary was a non-replica rendition, it did not disappoint! The show was complete with a falling chandelier, moving and disappearing staircases, colorful costumes, and a hefty amount of pyrotechnics. Julia Udine, who plays Christine, sang with heartfelt emotion and a gripping stage presence during “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” and used her range well during her entire performance. That music is impossible and impressive. The phantom, played by Mark Campbell, was played by an understudy, Cooper Grodin. From what I’ve read of other reviews, Grodin must have added a more compassionate side to the Phantom. He did hit all of his vocals, but his true talent was in his acting. He possessed his character thoroughly and showed the audience all sides (instead of just cruelty) of the phantom- love, obsession, heartache, and desperation.

Ultimately, I experienced everything one should during a musical- I was wowed by the spectacle, caught up in the music, fascinated by the idea of a play within a play (thank you, Shakespeare!). Minneapolis was only the second city on the tour, so I give them some room for error. The show had to be stopped mid-performance due to technical difficulties (which is actually really ironic because there is a scene in Phantom when that actually happens as part of the storyline). Also, intermission was prolonged due to more technical problems. I’m not sure if it was the venue or the production, but it did noticeably throw the performance off. In general, the entire flow seemed a little disjointed, but hopefully it gets smoother with time.

The tour has long moved on from Minneapolis and is currently in Chicago, IL if you fancy a drive! It will also be showing in Iowa, Wisconsin, and a few places on the East Coast. Click here for more information or look up the 25th anniversary performances on Youtube, you won’t be disappointed!