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Thread: U.S. Premiere of Another Brick in the Wall at the Cincinnati Opera

          
   
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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    U.S. Premiere of Another Brick in the Wall at the Cincinnati Opera

    Springer Auditorium, Music Hall
    20 July 2018

    Original words and music by Roger Waters in an operatic adaptation by Julien Bilodeau

    Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conductor Alain Trudel
    Cincinnati Opera Chorus, Chorus Master Henri Venanzi

    Stage Director: Suzanne Crocker
    Set Designer: Stéphane Roy
    Costume Designer: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt
    Lighting Director: Anne-Catherine Simard-Deraspe
    Original Lighting Director: Étienne Boucher
    Video Designer: Johnny Ranger
    Video Programmer: Olivier Ouellet
    Sound Designer, Numeric Orchestration: Louis Dufort
    Props Master: Madeleine Saint-Jacques
    Theatrical Advisor: Normand Baillargeon
    Wigs and Make-up: James Geier
    Choreographer: Oğulcan Borova
    Production Stage Manager: Constance Dubinski Grubbs

    A co-production by Productions Opéra Concept MP and Cincinnati Opera

    Cast
    Pink: Nathan Keoughan
    The Mother: France Bellemare
    The Father: Jean-Michel Richer
    The Wife: Caroline Bleau
    Vera Lynn: Reilly Nelson
    The Teacher: Brandon Scott Russell
    The Prosecutor: Michael Young
    The Judge: James Eder

    The story: Rock star Pink didn’t have it easy while growing up. His father died in the war (World War II), his mother became over-protective, and he was tormented by a sadistic school teacher. Things don’t improve much when he reaches adulthood. Yes, he has fame (and presumably fortune), but his wife ends up cheating on him with a man she meets at a political demonstration and he grows contemptuous of his audiences. It’s all too much for Pink, who erects an emotional wall around himself, contemplates suicide, and finally suffers a breakdown complete with hallucinations in which he’s first a tyrannical dictator who abuses refugees and other marginal social groups, and then ends up in a bizarre courtroom trial with various figures in his life as witnesses. The opera concludes with the judge ordering Pink to tear down the wall.

    In an essay that appears in the Cincinnati Opera’s 2018 program book, music critic Jim Farber describes Pink Floyd’s album The Wall, on which the opera is based, as “a difficult and remote work,” and confirms what I suspected, namely that there’s a healthy portion of autobiographical content in Roger Waters’ original. (He suffered a mental breakdown during a tour in the late ‘70s.) For me, at least, Another Brick in the Wall also proved to be “difficult and remote.” I spent the entire evening admiring the considerable talents of composer Julien Bilodeau and the production team headed by director Suzanne Crocker, who realized Dominic Champagne’s original staging and concept – and yet never really felt moved by any of it. (Or was this the point?) There was no character here with whom I could truly empathize, Pink included, in spite of his unhappy childhood. I remained emotionally detached, an observer. Again, maybe that was somehow the intention, but this sort of distancing is not what I want from an opera. I want to be emotionally engaged by what I’m hearing/seeing.

    Bilodeau’s music is tonal and accessible, with some recognizable references to classical and jazz influences. The production relies heavily on video projections and lighting effects, and the combination is undeniably spectacular. However, some of the lights, especially near the beginning of the opera, were so excessively bright that I had to close my eyes for long stretches and missed whatever was happening onstage. That really needs to be corrected prior to the remaining four performances, unless the Cincinnati Opera is determined to blind audience members. (During intermission, I watched as one of the stage technicians scaled some sort of climbing structure near the stage left side of the proscenium arch all the way up to a camera or projector that was positioned on a small platform by the top balcony. The man must have had nerves of steel!) Stéphane Roy’s sets consisted of two immense, towering rectangles that served as projection surfaces and could be rotated to form a variety of configurations, while assorted props and costumes – a hospital gurney, school desks, prison cell tiers, nurses’ and doctors’ white uniforms, orange prison jumpsuits – suggested the different scenes.

    The musical performance was outstanding, with Alain Trudel leading the vibrant, stylistically versatile Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The leading soloists – baritone Nathan Keoughan (Pink), mezzo France Bellemare, tenor Jean-Michel Richer (Pink’s parents), and soprano Caroline Bleau (Pink’s wife, referred to as The Woman) – all had very attractive voices and articulated Waters’ text well, though I was still glad to have the supertitles as back-up. Tenor Brandon Scott Russell made an appropriately nasty school teacher, while mezzo Reilly Nelson contributed a sultry Vera Lynn during Pink’s hallucination of a wartime servicemen’s canteen. The cast was rounded out by baritone Michael Young as the Prosecutor and bass James Eder as the Judge. The Cincinnati Opera Chorus, prepared by Henri Venanzi, was in top form vocally and theatrically. It’s too bad the program doesn’t list the name of the boy who filled the silent role of the child Pink, because he did an excellent job of it. The evening concluded with lots of enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation by the audience. We’re either an easily satisfied bunch, or there have been four exceptional productions this year. I’d like to think it’s the latter.

    Prior to the beginning of the performance, CO Artistic Director Evans Mirageas announced the five operas that will be staged next summer, and it sounds like a pretty appealing lineup. They include Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with Susanna Philips as the Countess, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette with Nicole Cabell as Juliette, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with the CO’s Artistic Advisor, bass Morris Robinson, as Porgy, Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, and a new opera, Blind Justice, that will be presented in cooperation with Innocence Project Ohio, based at the University of Cincinnati. Here is a link with some of the details of the last-named opera:
    https://www.innocenceproject.org/cin...ind-injustice/
    Last edited by MAuer; August 2nd, 2018 at 11:51 AM.

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    I'm intrigued by this. I've been a long time fan of Pink Floyd's albums The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon. How an opera, based on Roger Water's experiences, outside of the albums, would work, I don't know. I am, however, fascinated.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review!

  3. Likes Ann Lander (sospiro) liked this post

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