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A Freudian Elysium

Los Angeles
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
04/10/2010 -  and 18, 22, 24 April 2010
Franz Schreker: Die Gezeichneten
Robert Brubaker (Alviano Salvago), Anja Kampe (Carlotta Nardi), Martin Gantner (Graf Andrai Vitelozzo Tamare), Wolfgang Schöne (Lodovico Nardi, Podestà), James Johnson (Herzog Antoniotto Adorno), Joel Sorensen (Guidobald Usodimare), Beau Gibson (Menaldo Negroni), Hyung Yun (Micheletto Cibo), Eugene Brancoveanu (Gonsalvo Fieschi), Matthew Burns (Paolo Calvi), Ben Wager (Julian Pinelli), Keith Jameson (Pietro), Ronnita Nicole Miller (Martuccia), Corey Bix (1st Senator), José Adán Pérez (2nd Senator), Craig Colclough (3rd Senator), Valerie Vinzant (Genevra Scotti), Danielle Walker (A Maiden), Robert MacNeil (1st Citizen/3rd Youth), Matthew Moore (2nd Citizen/Father/1st Youth), Kenneth Kellogg (3rd Citizen/2nd Youth/Giant Citizen), Hak Soo Kim (Youth), Gabriel Vamvulescu (Youth’s Friend/Servant), Erica Brookhyser (Mother), Daniel Montenegro (Son), Rebecca Tomlinson (Servant Girl), Charles Lane (Tenor Solo)
Stuart Canin (Los Angeles Opera Concertmaster), Grant Gershon (Associate Conductor/Chorus Master), Los Angeles Opera Chorus, James Conlon (Conductor)
Ian Judge (Director), Wendall K. Harrington (Projection Designer), Deirdre Clancy (Costume Designer), Daniel Ordower (Lighting Designer)

(© Robert Millard)

It is besmirching. Its connotation renders condemnation, defamation and deprecation. In one fell swoop it can taint anything and everything. When the word “stigma” is attached to any subject, a sudden pall of darkness can prevail and grow insidiously.

Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten (1918), literally translated, The Stigmatized Ones, is just one of many works that were virtually swept under the rug when Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich began to establish its choke hold. These so called “degenerate” composers” from Central Europe were either exterminated or stripped of governmental titles by the Nazis based on hints of a Jewish ancestral connection. Despite losing his position as head of the Berlin Hochschule für Musik in June 1932, Schreker became one of Germany’s leading opera composers during the early 1920s alongside the ever popular Richard Strauss.

Impassioned James Conlon continues his Recovered Voices project, now entering its fourth year, with the Western Hemisphere premiere of The Stigmatized under the direction of Ian Judge that can be described as a multi-layered invocation of the senses. Franz Schreker’s music harkens back to shades of Debussy and Strauss (even a hint of Puccini), both tonal and polytonal in nature, distinctly avant-garde while serving as a preamble to Erich Korngold’s cinematic scores. Since the Austrian composer wrote his own libretto for The Stigmatized, the link between the opera’s words and notes is intimate and effective which manifests itself through the superb acting and vocal talents of the leading characters.

The strength of this production lies in its two protagonists: American Robert Brubaker makes his LA Opera debut as Alviano Salvago, the deformed hunchback, creator of the paradise island “Elysium”, alongside returning German soprano Anje Kampe who sings the role of Carlotta Nardi, painter and daughter of the Genoese mayor (the Podestà). Brubaker wrings out every ounce of human misery just as Kampe tears out her soul with searing fireworks.

The Stigmatized is a psychological thriller with Freudian underpinnings. If one is a frequent visitor to LA Opera, something familiar can be seen behind the opening translucent scrim. Running parallel with Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, Ian Judge is given the challenge to create a production that involves a moveable circular raked stage. Combined with Harrington’s projection and Ordower’s lighting, one is drawn into The Stigmatized which wraps the audience into a endless array of artistic imagery that morphs before our very eyes.

Frequent contributor to Broadway productions and former design director of Esquire magazine, Wendall K. Harrington cleverly transforms the stage by synchronizing Franz Schreker’s dialogue and James Conlon’s compelling orchestral interpretation. Together, the human brain is tapped from every angle with stimuli which is beyond words.

In the original work Schreker places his opera in 16th century Genoa; however, this production moves the timeline into the Gay-Nineties. Deirdre Clancy does an exceptional job in dressing the cast members in subdued and rather sober hues of blacks and grays. This makes sense as it allows both lighting and projection to take center stage. On the other hand, the lead roles don Clancy’s creations that take on a rather distinctive and majestic quality. As Aristotle would say, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

Through the fervent vision of James Conlon and the financial gifts of Marilyn Ziering and the Ziering Family Foundation we are appreciative that The Stigmatized and other works within Recovered Voices have been brought to the stage with decorum and dignity.

Christie Grimstad



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