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A triumphant premiere of The Brightness of Mild at Lyric Opera of Chicago – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United States Kevin Places, The Brightness of Mild: Renée Fleming (soprano), Rod Gilfry (baritone), Wendall Okay. Harrington (manufacturing design), Orchestra of Lyric Opera of Chicago / Enrique Mazzola (conductor). Civic Opera Home, Chicago, 8.10.2022. (JLZ)

Enrique Mazzola, Renée Fleming, Rod Gilfry in The Brightness of Mild © Robert Kusel

This particular live performance marked the Chicago premiere of The Brightness of Mild by Kevin Places, a two-person stage piece impressed by the connection between painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Alfred Stieglitz, whose correspondence is the idea for the libretto. Commissioned in 2015 with soprano Renée Fleming in thoughts, it’s constructed on the vocality of this consummate artist, a dimension that extends to the baritone function. As Places writes in his notes, it wanted to concentrate on an iconic American lady, and the selection of O’Keeffe is impressed by the traces he set firstly of the work: ‘My first reminiscence is of the brightness of sunshine, gentle throughout’.

With the artists’ phrases offered on stage by Renée Fleming and Rod Gilfry, the efficiency was in distinctive fingers from the beginning. They labored collectively a long time in the past to create the roles of Blanche and Stanley in André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Want (1998), and their rapport was clear as they responded right here to one another’s traces with finesse. Wendall Okay. Harrington’s multi-media backdrop consists of photographs of O’Keeffe and Stieglitz and reproductions of their work and pictures, in a show that enhanced the presentation.

Fleming used her voice to carry out numerous dimensions of O’Keeffe’s traces, and her shaping of them added to the effectiveness of the efficiency. However it was her timing that stood out, because the emphases that emerged in particular phrases and phrases introduced nuance to the character of O’Keeffe. It was certainly an iconic American lady depicted by an icon of the musical world.

Her entrances have been good, and the twelve-section rating flowed easily because it took the viewers from the primary phrases to the ultimate ones within the concluding ‘Sundown’. The conversational model that Fleming used to nice impact in Capriccio was evident in a number of the passages, together with evocations of her Thaïs within the hovering traces that Places used to indicate the passionate depth of O’Keeffe’s love for Stieglitz, and of her absorption within the ambiance she tried to convey in her work.

Rod Gilfry gave an equally robust efficiency, and his supple voice was good for this demanding half. His Stieglitz evinced the fervour implicit within the photographer’s letters together with his reactions to the drawings O’Keeffe shared with him in addition to her compelling persona. Stieglitz’s phrases present the impassioned facet of an artist the general public associates with black-and-white images, and the music provides to the picture of Stieglitz that Gilfry created on stage. His duets with Fleming have been memorable, because the intersecting traces had nuances in dynamics that allowed numerous phrases and phrases to shift between the 2, as in the event that they have been one voice.

Their musical affinities derive from the trouble Gilfry and Fleming made in A Streetcar Named Want, and it was sensible to incorporate excerpts from it within the second half of this system. Gilfry’s Stanley was as contemporary and shifting because it was on the premiere. He additionally labored properly with Fleming in a masterful interpretation of a number of basic Broadway numbers which confirmed the distinction that happens when skilled artists carry out the music. Particulars emerge that aren’t all the time a part of revivals the place actors are required to sing, significantly in a number of the requirements carried out right here, reminiscent of ‘Individuals Will Say We’re in Love’ (from Oklahoma!) and ‘Virtually like Falling in Love’ (from Brigadoon).

It additionally helps to have a talented ensemble just like the Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanying the voices. Greater than that, Enrique Mazzola led your complete effort with nice model, particularly in delivering a compelling interpretation of Places’s sensible rating. This made the efficiency of The Brightness of Mild one of many highlights of the present season.

James L. Zychowicz

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