Monday, April 27, 2009

Pagliacci-o-well

Despite being a criminal genius, Al Capone has just lost a little respect in my book. Yesterday was the Knoxville Opera's performance of Pagliacci, "the opera that made Capone cry," and it was, in a word, ordinary. The first act was mediocre. The second act was an improvement, with nearly an infinite increase in displayed emotion, but for all the decent singing, the whole opera was rather lackluster.
Despite the quite famous scene from this particular opera (about 2 minutes into the clip: "am I a man? No, Pagliaccio is only a clown"), I'd prefer Carmen or La Boheme any day. The pit orchestra sounded unfamiliar with the music, and often played over the performers on stage, making it difficult to hear particular voices. The female lead (the character Nedda) had a nice voice (I'm no soprano, so I have an innate respect for them), but she tended to sing with her bust. No matter if it was appropriate or not, her chest blazed its way across the stage, arching her back in what looked to be an uncomfortable form of vaguely upright yoga and drawing attention from her emotive facial expressions. Her costume could have been from any period in late European history, detracting from the supposed Italian scenery. In fact, the fake trees toward the front of the stage were so poorly lit that they cast strange shadows across the painted sky of the backdrop, almost as though we were meant to know it was only make-believe.
The crown jewel of the whole performance, I'd have to say, was the "extras" - a few people on stage the opera company had obviously hired to do no singing or dancing, but merely to play a painfully specific role. My favorite was the man in the clown costume (he looked uncomfortable, even from 15 rows back) who did nothing but juggle.
At least the day was pleasant, and the boys and I were able to get in brunch on the patio at Downtown Grill and Brewery, and a beer or two after the opera at Preservation Pub.

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