Mark Adamo’s Little Women at the IU Opera Theater is a warm, humorous family drama love, loss and growth as the March family’s daughters come of age in the 1870s based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott.
It begins at the end of the story. The central character in the opera, Jo looks back on their lives. Jo’s recurring line is “happy as we were.” Her memories are of warm family times together with her sisters, and of wrenching disappointments as they each went their separate ways.
Adamo skillfully winds the strands of the family life together often with contrasting emotions and paths forming a musical and verbal counterpoint. There are children’s games, scenes of warm domesticity, love scenes, and passionate moments. The four girls grow up. First, despite Jo’s deep objections, Meg marries. Then, there’s a wrenching scene as Jo sits at Beth’s deathbed. Finally, Amy marries an old family friend. In the mean time, Jo herself has become a successful commercial writer.
Saturday night’s sisters led by Laura Wilde as a very attractive and compelling Jo included solid performances by Ashley Stone as Meg, Sharon Harms as Beth and Julie Wyma as Amy. Their individual work was strong and I especially enjoyed their quartets. David Margulis was effective as the passionate family friend Laurie.
Emily Smokovich and Luis Gonzalez were an effective couple as the March family’s parents. Christopher Grundy was the skeptical pulp fiction publisher who hired Jo on the condition that she leaves out the sermons.
Robert O’Hearn’s costumes looked good and set a harmonious pattern for the family and their guests. Patrick Mero’s lighting was dramatic and set an overall tone of warmth and comfort in the family scenes.
Kevin Noe conducted with the precision that the score demands and the warmth that is a key to its success.
As I mentioned Little Women is a story of love with the warmth of the family, loss as the sisters and Jo age and finally, growth, a maturity. Jo, whose key line has been “happy as we were” has the last words of the drama and she says, “Now is all there is.”