My parents love the opera.
Yep, my father sheepishly admitted to me one time that he used to cut class when he was in high school to go home and listen to opera records. (in case you thought I was nerdy…) They have a subscription to Opera Theater of St. Louis, and they often plan trips to Chicago solely around Lyric Opera productions. Even my mom loves the opera, despite the fact that she comes from a theater background and generally has a bone to pick with the singers’ unconvincing acting.
When I first explained to my husband Richard what Chicago Q Ensemble’s show, NO EXIT, was going to be like, his immediate reaction was, “Oh, so it’s basically like you’re putting on an opera.” “Nooo,” I countered defensively, “we’re not singing! Duhhh.” But then I thought about it a little more. What we’re doing really is the equivalent of what an opera singer does. We’re weaving the music of Mozart and Scelsi into a storyline that we will act out ourselves. This is something that, aside from vocalists, musicians typically never do. Usually we just never think to do it—after all, the great masterworks don’t needadditional elements to distract from their greatness, right?
But what if theater could serve as a uniquely engaging entry point into instrumental chamber music? When we started putting together this show, we knew that we wanted to play Scelsi and Mozart. When we thought about what these two incredibly different pieces had in common, we came up with this crazy connection: Scelsi spends an entire movement weaving around one note, never straying further than a couple of whole steps and always reverting back to that note. Mozart, in line with the classical forms of his time, spends a movement focusing on one key, never straying too far from the tonic and always returning to it at the end. In a crazy and completely different way, both of the Mozart and Scelsi selections we’ve chosen are doomed to stay in one place and can never escape, no matter how far their melodies stray.
Enter Sartre. Three characters stuck together for eternity in hell. No escape, only a life (or rather, death) full of power struggles, both literally and psychologically. In a weird way, it almost seems like it was meant to go with this music. And speaking of power struggles, shall I go ahead and point out the lovely metaphor between this situation and some professional chamber ensembles we all know? (ThinkA Late Quartet)
I suppose I shouldn’t give too much more away. You’ll all just have to come see for yourself. But we are so incredibly excited and proud to be presenting this piece of music and theater, and can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Guided by our director, Dierdre Harrison, this show ain’t gonna be over til you hear us play AND watch us speak and act.
Oh, and when you come to our show this Sunday, be sure to give my mom a wink. She is, after all, the one who mentioned No Exit to us when we called her to talk theater one day last February. She’s coming because, well, my parents are into opera.