The IU Opera Theater is revisiting William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge, the opera based on Arthur Miller’s play. They mounted the collegiate premiere of the work in 2005. These performances bring a return of the same basic production.
The original sets and costumes are by Robert O’Hearn and stage direction is again by Vincent Liotta. But as Liotta says, the differences are the qualities that each the new cast members bring to their roles. Most of them were just starting their college studies seven years ago. And there’s a new conductor, Constantine Kitsopoulos.
A View from the Bridge presents the story of Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn dockworker. Eddie’s a hard worker, a well-liked member of the community and apparently a successful husband to his wife Bea and uncle to his niece Catherine. At Bea’s urging they take in a couple of her nephews, illegal immigrants from Italy.
Marco comes to find work for his wife and children. Rodolpho comes for the work and for the glamor. Niece Catherine is attracted to Rodolpho. Then it becomes apparent that Eddie is too attached to his niece. In his jealously, he commits the ultimate sin in the community. He turns the nephews in to Immigration.
As librettist Arnold Weinstein worked on the project of converting Miller’s two act play into an opera libretto, he and Miller came to rely more and more on Miller’s original. That first version of A View from the Bridge was a one-act verse drama with more use of the chorus and narrator inspired by the Greek tragedies.
The large, skillfully deployed IU chorus appears as a sort of unified Greek group, and then, very flexibly, moves to become a varied group of community members, each with a separate character.
Composer William Bolcom is a master of styles. He can weave from a percussive evocation of street noises to a drunken doo-wap chorus and back, to a set of sounds that evokes the golden age of Hollywood, all in a split second. The scene as Rodolpho and Catherine move toward making love kept reminding me of Gershwin.
A View from the Bridge is filled with music. It’s varied, always changing, and there are few separate arias. Saturday night’s audience was clearly ready to applaud by the seventh scene, when Rodolfo finally had the first aria of the evening, as he sang about home. Another aria that received applause was Marco’s lament, “To America, I sailed on a Ship called Hunger,” which he performs just before he is to be deported.
The overall production is a strong one, with solid dramatic and vocal contributions from the leads on Saturday night. Conor Angell presided with just the right degree of authority and resignation as the lawyer Alfieri. Returning baritone Mathew Opitz was always on as Eddie. Laura Waters sang well in the role of his dutiful and sometimes critical wife Bea. Katherine Weber had the high notes as Eddie’s niece Catherine.
Corey Bonar was outstanding as the tenor Rodolpho. Luke Williams, a menacing figure, sang movingly in the Marco’s lament, a piece that had become a signature work for Robert Samels.
Grad students Preston Orr as Louie and Brendon Marsh as Tony, along with Andrew Morstein as the always agreeable Mike, lent just the right notes of local camaraderie to the proceedings.
The IU Opera Theater’s production of A View from the Bridge has final performances this Friday and Saturday in the Musical Arts Center.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.