"A Wedding" at the IU Opera Theater opened Saturday night with the wedding directrix, Jennifer Jakob, admonishing her staff that "this is a wedding, not a circus," but William Bolcom’s opera based on the Robert Altman film though based around a wedding does come pretty close to being a circus.
In the Opera Insights talk before the performance, composer Bolcom encouraged the audience to laugh out loud and to laugh a lot. Saturday night’s followed his directions. Variety certainly was the rule in the music. The wedding itself was a burlesque accompanied by a wedding march that echoed and re echoed the excesses of those great 30s and 40s Hollywood composers. In the midst of a later scene, I realized that I was listening to a recitative accompanied in formal style by a synthesized harpsichord.
The music of dance scenes of "A Wedding" at the reception glibly switches time signatures and styles from decorous couple pieces to a country line dance with steps equally glibly put together by the Director of the IU Ballet Michael Vernon.
In a scene of evolving extra marital love, between the mother of the bride, Kathryn Leemhuis and Ferris Allen, the groom’s family doctor, Bolcom and librettist Arnold Weinstein are not above rhyming "lassie," "classy," and "Tallahassee." In still another love duet Steven Hrycelak as the hired guest and Audrey Snyder as the groom’s family’s wild aunt practically do a buck and wing before the curtain as the aunt sings archly of needing a gardener to mow her "lot of lawn "
The IU Opera Theater production of "A Wedding" is the finale for designer Robert O’Hearn. Frankly, I’d worried about the challenges of bringing a rather diffuse movie that uses so much camera movement and so many cuts to the stage. I needn’t have been concerned. Sets come and go as smoothly as the rest of the action and the mirrored ladies powder room with its multiple images of the characters was a fascinating commentary of its own.
I’ve emphasized the comedy, but there are also moments of great lyrical beauty in "A Wedding." I was especially moved by the sadly drug addicted mother of the groom, Courtney Crouse’s aria of her first love for the groom’s father, an Italian waiter. And the sympathetic groom’s father, Anthony Webb’s dutiful but loving attention and his own sad music was heartfelt as well. However comedy does reign. Even the most tragic of moments in the opera is quickly followed by the whole ensemble, bunny hopping off the stage.
William Bolcom’s "A Wedding" has its final two performances on Friday the eighth and Saturday the ninth at eight. Guest David Agler is the conductor. Vincent Liotta the stage director. Opera insights is presented on the mezzanine at seven.