I hadn’t realised there was an opera for this story, but apparently it was written in the 1960s. Go figure. At any rate, it’s a Steinbeck story so, of course, I had to go see it having been blown away by NIDA’s production of “The Grapes of Wrath” a few years ago.
I easily convinced my friend, Lyn, to come with: we packed our bags with bubbly and munchies and we were ready to be impressed. Lyn hadn’t read the story so, as we consumed the bubbly from Christmas themed paper cups on the steps of the Opera House, I tantalised her with the basic plot line, but kept the ending to myself (I know my audience).
It took the first half of the first act to get around the idea of 1930s drifting ranch-hands singing in opera. From then on though, I was hooked.
A few parts of the story, and at least one character, are left out; that sort of story-shrinking is to be expected I suppose. Otherwise, the storytelling using props and artwork are very well done. The large screens filled with painting of farmhands cutting hay etc are quite descriptive, especially if you know the background of the story and/or have watched the Gary Sinise/John Malkovich film version. I’m not sure how effective they are if you haven’t done at least that much. After all, not everyone has read the book (or seen the movie). The beginning also relies on the audience knowing the story well and being able to make the connections throughout and in the final scenes.
The acting/singing is excellent. The interaction between characters, particularly in the scene with Lennie and Curly’s wife in the barn, is evocative and immediately increases understanding of the wife’s situation and, therefore, behaviour. Poor Lennie, one thinks as he guiltily hides the body of the precious puppy. Poor wife, the only person listening and understanding, she thinks, is Lennie. But neither have thoughts beyond their own situation; neither really undesrtands the other.
The ending in the opera is as tear-jerking as the book. Hard decisions. Hard choices. Crushed dreams. The embodiment of a good opera?
Yes, I think so.