The IU Opera Theater presents Mark Adamo’s operatic adaptation of Louisa May Alcott‘s classic, Little Women. Veteran IU Opera-goers may remember the collegiate premier in 2002. The sets and costumes of the current production retain Robert O’Hearn’s original design, but the stage direction is by Michael Ehrman.
Kevin Noe conducts the music. Noe is based in Austin, Texas, but he’s on an extended visit to Bloomington. He came to the studio to talk with WFIU’s George Walker.
Moving Through Two Musical Environments
Little Women premiered in 1990, when Noe was about 21. Since then, the music – along with Mark Adamo’s firm belief that he knew more about the central conflict of the story than Louisa May Alcott did – has come under scrutiny.
“I really hadn’t been familiar with Little Women until about a year ago,” Noe says.
“However, I can certainly talk about the remarkable music. Adamo has chosen to write in two styles. One is a lush romantic style for the arias. It’s a bit like Copland or Barber or Floyd, but really has Adamo’s special mark. The second is the music of the background, the movement of the story, and it’s actually atonal. One of the incredible things about this score is how smoothly the drama moves through the two very different musical environments.”
It’s Not The Conflict, It’s The Thread!
Noe disagrees that Adamo believed he knew more about Little Women than Louisa May Alcott herself. “For most people, Little Women is or was a novel that they spent hours reading and perhaps rereading. In the theater with perhaps two hours available, Adamo had to find a thread to pull to produce a piece that is in fact faithful, while being coherent and very focused. Sure, there are things that people who know the novel will miss, but the advantage is having a theater piece with an arc of dramatic tension.”