I had already purchased my ticket to the Hawaii Opera Theatre’s production of “Three Decembers,” starring the great Frederica Von Stade, and was looking forward to being able to walk to the Hawaii Theatre (which is only two blocks from my condo), when I read Steven Mark’s review in today’s newspaper. It was an exceptional review, one in which I felt Steven was talking directly to me, and what I particularly remembered was his closing, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a production of such caliber, imbued with such depth. Go see it.”
If you go to the composer, Jake Heggie’s homepage, you will read:
Three Decembers is a 90-minute opera in one act by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, based on Terrence McNally’s original script Some Christmas Letters. The opera is composed for three singers (soprano, mezzo-soprano and baritone) with 11 instrumentalists: oboe/English Horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, sax/flute, 2 pianos, percussion, 3 violins, 1 cello, 1 bass. Three Decembers was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera and co-commissioned by the San Francisco Opera in association with Cal Performances at UC Berkeley.
The first performance was Feb 29, 2008 in the Cullen Theater at the Wortham Center in Houston. The opera tells the story of a famous stage actress – Madeline Mitchell (mezzo-soprano) – and her two adult children: Beatrice (soprano) and Charlie (baritone). The drama takes place over three decades of the AIDS crisis (1986, 1996 and 2006), each section recalling the events of a December as the characters struggle to connect when family secrets are revealed.
The Hawaii Opera Theatre’s production was the first time the three singers, Fredericka Von Stade, Keith Phares and Kristin Clayton, reunited after the premiere nine years ago.
Here is Steven Mark’s review:
[You may remember that it is the same Steven Mark who wrote Carl Crosier’s obituary.]
Indeed, I was so caught up in the drama of the aging diva and her troubled children, that I forgot I was at the opera. It’s like when you watch a heartbreaking movie and find yourself weeping. Why? Because of events that have happened to you and your empathy with the characters on the screen or stage. When Maddie (the mother) dies at the end, I couldn’t help shedding a tear or two. It immediately took me back to the day I found my husband, Carl, his speech slurred, paralyzed and unable to move, which turned out to be the last day before he died. “I’m so sorry,” he kept saying to me, over and over again.
Isn’t that the power of a great performance, to move us so deeply, that it takes us on a journey, to another place, and somehow we are changed afterwards?
That’s what happened to me tonight at the opera.