"It helps to have a subject, but it’s better to have a style."
Mark Adamo’s opera "Little Women" opened in its collegiate premiere this past weekend in a well acted and beautifully sung performance at the IU Opera Theatre in a production conducted by Ted Taylor, directed by Vincent Liotta and designed by Robert O’Hearn.
Since its premiere in Houston in 1998, "Little Women" has enjoyed wonderful success and it’s easy to see why. Adamo has found a real vein of drama in a familiar story with well known characters. His own musical palette is broad enough to allow him to wield lush romantic melodies mixed with modern harmonies and rhythms. At one point he has two couples neatly interweave their conversations and at still another there is a full blown octet.
At Saturday night’s performance, Jo, Leslie Mutchler; Meg, Kate Mangiameli; Beth, Tiffany Rosenquist, and Amy, Anita Rollo made a lovely quartet as the girls of the March family. They were ably seconded by their lovers Laurie, David Ray,;John Brooke, Corey McKern, and Friedrich Bhaer, Samuel Spade. Substantial contributions came from the elders and others with the mother, Allison Watson, the father, Brandon Mayberry, the wealthy aunt, Heidi Vanderford and the publisher Michael Mentzel.
In Mark Adamo’s vision of the Louisa May Alcott classic the older of the four March sisters, Jo, is desperately trying to hold back the future at the expense of the present. For some this drama may come at the expense of some of the joy that they remember in the simple family life that Alcott wrote about. The IU production with its action deep and high on an abstract set does seem more stark than homey. During the course of "Little Women" Leslie Mutchler was always alive to the tension as Jo achieves her own success as an independent woman and writer, but bitterly resents the natural fading of the close family life that she so much loves. However, Jo does learn and her final line in Adamo’s opera is a positive one as she says, "Now, is all there is."
The IU Opera Theatre’s production of Mark Adamo’s "Little Women" plays this Friday and Saturday at the Musical Arts Center.