A View from the Bridge

The IU Opera Theatre is putting on the first collegiate production of William Bolcom’s "A View from the Bridge." The opera is based on Arthur Miller’s tragedy of twisted love and violated loyalty.

Eddie Carbone, potently played by Austin Kness, is man among men of the Italian-American dockworkers in Brooklyn. He and his wife Beatrice, the warmly sympathetic Tamara Wapinsky, take two of her illegal immigrant cousins into their home. David Sadlier played the flamboyant, blond Rodolfo with zest, while Robert Samels was the dark serious brother, Marco. Rodolfo is in America for romance. Marco seeks only to work to send money home to his hungry wife and children in their poverty stricken village.

Things go well until Rodolpho and Eddie’s niece Catherine, Alison Bates, fall in love. Bates handles her dual role as her uncles little girl and herself as she becomes a mature woman adroitly. (I was a little puzzled that in a drama where much is made of Rodolfo’s non-Italian blond hair, Catherine is blond as well.) Eddie is jealous and in his frustrated rage informs on the brothers to the immigration authorities. The brothers are arrested and Marco curses Eddie. In prison Marco sings a passionate aria of his devastation that now he will be sent back. The brothers are let out on bail and ironically, Rodolfo will in fact marry Catherine and be allowed to stay. In a passionate scene, Marco demands that Eddie apologize. They struggle, Eddie pulls a knife, but the powerful Marco forces Eddie to stab himself to death.

William Bolcom has added a chorus of the community to "A View from the Bridge." The chorus shares the narration with the lawyer Alfieri, realized with stiff eloquence by Robert Brandt. Alan Dunar and Josh Whitener were featured as friends of Eddie’s. In a recurring bit of comedy, though he varies it nicely, Whitener’s only solo line is "Yah!" Vincent Liotta’s staging individualized each of the thirty chorus members as well as deftly handling the more intimate scenes with the principals.

Composer William Bolcom has said that Miller’s play was already halfway to being an opera and the potent production certainly bears that out. In the opera, the play’s subtext-the feelings, the passions that underlie the words-are dramatically realized in the music.

Throughout "a View from the Bridge" guest conductor William Lumpkin kept pace and balances well in hand. The orchestra for the opera is very large. English Horn, bass clarinet, contra bassoon and bass trombone all add to the potency of the opera’s dark sounds. Despite the size of the ensemble, Bolcom’s orchestration leaves plenty of spaces for the singers. This plus especially good diction from the whole cast almost made the super titles unnecessary.

The IU Opera Theatre’s production of "A View from the Bridge" plays this Friday and Saturday at eight with preshow informances at seven.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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