About Me

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Split personality. Liking the arts, especially opera, and hockey and Los Toros. I know, I know THAT one is non pc currently. But I can't help it saw some in Spain and got hooked, but good. But on the other hand right now opera and hockey are in the forefront!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shostakovich at U of H

It IS hard to decide what Moscow, Cheryomushki by Dimitri Shostakovitch IS, really. 
Is it a Russian Operetta, as quoted by the media?
A musical? A cabaret? 
Or just satirical theater with music?
To call it an opera is - perhaps, well intended, but not quite the thing,  IMO. It translated well onto the big screen as the clip shows:

Well, whatever it should be called, it was done enthusiastically by the young performers with various vocal strength and beauty at Moore's Opera House at the University of Houston.
Ceiling at Moore's Opera House: Photo U of H
The music seemed to me more resembling film scores, than operetta, although there were some touches of the classical waltzes and polkas.
The Latin Beat did have some presence as well, and even Russified Rock 'n Roll was not ignored. 
There could be heard a bit of Shostakovitch, but overall it just sounded to me like well composed and rousing film music. The small (12 Piece) Orchestra performed well under the sensitive direction of Jake Sustaita (with that name his family must have come from a former SS state -  just guessing).

Staging, as usual at U of H, rather innovative with varied projections, and unusual ideas, singers marching in and out of auditorium; or posed in a balcony box (this during the ballet interlude  - as if they themselves are just audience members).

To my ears, admittedly more attuned to classic opera, only 4 singers/actors stood out among the myriads on stage (mostly in the chorus). 
DeMeo ringingly as Sergei,  Van Maanen sweetly and clearly as Lidochka, 
Berti impishly/waspishly as Vava (in Marilyn Monroe like wig) and Kincaide convincingly as her adoring old lover Drebednyov. 
Woodward as Masha, and Tucker as Sasha, also sang and acted well. 
Below a clip of the Bell song by Shasha and Masha.
Russell was a pipingly weak Lusya  (IMO); while Estrada as Baburov, battled hoarseness and short breath (maybe he had the flu)! 
Grimes as Boris, and Gallagher as Barabashkin, showed they could act and sing like minor Broadway stars!

The libretto (if I may call it that) was updated with 'modern' slang and 4 letter words, not too shockingly, I may add, just....well, somehow appropriate to the story! Which satirizes the dearth of living quarters in Russia at certain times. In times of tyranny satire does flourish underground! It takes a turn at the 'red' tape bureaucracy. And - let's not forget - that bribery also was (is) alive and well even in communist Russian. That 'It's not what you know but WHO you know' system also permeates daily life in Shostakovitch's Russia.  Can it be due to his own experiences under the influence of the 'famous' (;-) official 'RED' doctrine then prevailing in Russia in the 40'and into the 50's?

But one ought to be prepared for rather interminable dialogues between some lyrical, some catchy solos, duets and some excellently presented chorus pieces. Which gives one the sense of a piece, however amusing, that runs a bit 'too long'.
For ballet fans Shostakovitch in the time old Russian tradition interpolates a classical ballet with 4 dancers - a quite lovely little number.

Chers Readers have 2 more chances to see it. 
Sunday and Monday. 
It has 2 acts of 70 min. and  65 min. respectively. 
And enjoy the comedic aspects .... it is a fun piece and ought to be seen/heard at least once.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. A piece needed to be seen .. at least once.

suzanne mosier said...

Dare I opine not having seen the entirety of the effort? I shall. The clips you generously shared exude energy but sap mine for some reason. As I listen to the "Bell" I am reminded of sitting in the great out-doors at Discoveryland watching a sprightly "Oklahoma". The clips I hear say, "I'm a Satrical Musical". Not a bad thing, but what appears to be "muchness" and lack-of-definition weakens the overall effort. It is always fun to see youthful enthusiasm, and I identify with the romantic idea of having a place of one's own even though I cannot understand living under a full-blown Communist regime (fingers are crossed). I would have gone and enjoyed it because it take a big dose of ugly to dampen my enthusiasms musically, but return for seconds? No. Will it last historically? I don't know... There's not much meat on the bones.

artandhockey said...

Agree with you one seen it once seen it enough! But that is just my opinion! Others may need/want to see it more. Anyway kudos to U of H for staging rare pieces as well as the run of the mill ones!
Students need exposure to all!