Opera: counter culture

It’s funny these days how some things are so easy to find on the internet, or rather, you’d be stupid not to “just google it”. And yet, there are still wonderful things that cannot satisfactorily be “googled”.

Case in point:
I signed my teenage son up for a field trip to Boston to see a baroque opera. The trip was to be paid for by a party interested in getting a group of homeschooled teens to be part of the audience for the event…and when I saw that chaperones were needed, I decided my son was eager to go. He actually did not object, which is teen-age-ian for “eager to go”.

The opera was “David et Jonathas”, which when googled, will come up as “H. 490, is an opera in five acts and a prologue by the French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier, first performed at ..” and then there is the AOT’s American premiere performed on You tube, and then a listing of the Helios Opera Company’s version (which is the one I saw)…and so on. But you will not, at least as of today, get any version of the performance I saw. And the performance I saw was spine-tinglingly beautiful.

I learned the next day from our generous benefactor, that the baroque instruments are quieter and so lend themselves to the more intimate setting of a large church like we sat in that night to soak in the performance. That is a wonderful aspect to the project, I think. The project of airing a baroque opera necessitates “down-sizing” or not aiming big, which is so wonderfully counter-culture. I was really thrilled to watch all these inspired musicians (all of them younger than me I think) devoted to this counter culture project.

The story line is biblical, but certainly obscure to someone like me raised by half-hearted episcopalians who eventually became Quakers and then finally “disavowed” Quakerism to embrace atheism. I had to look the story up. David is the same one who fought Goliath and he went on doing all good things and garnering lots of favorable attention much to King Saul’s disgust. King Saul grew afraid of him because he was so popular. David of course, being a good guy, had no evil intent, but Saul, being a bad guy, becomes obsessed with the idea that David must intend harm. Meanwhile, Sauls’ son Jonathas is David’s friend, and loves him more than anything. So the opera is about Jonathas’s torn allegiance…his love for his father vs his love for his friend. And that is also one of the great notes of the story; is this a gay love story? We don’t really find out. The Helios Opera cast Jonathas as a woman, and we found out the next day that it is originally a Soprano part anyway. There is speculation (or maybe knowledge) that young boys could have played the part at one time….David was a “haite contra” I see in the Wikipedia run down of the roles. His voice was beautiful.

The role of the “chorus”, as I call it, was beautiful in this production…they all truly sang and acted the part of joyous celebration when it was called for and then sorrowful bewailing when it was called for…I just loved watching each and every one of them as they played their supporting parts…

Well, back to my life now, but I wanted to do my part to put David et Jonathas onto the net so to speak….http://heliosopera.com

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