Chicago Opera Theater presents
At the Harris Theatre in Millennium Park
By Francesco Cavalli
Edited by Ellen Rosand
Libretto by G.A. Cicognini
Conducted by Christian Curnyn
Directed by Justin Way
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Thru May 2nd
Running Time: Three hours includes a twenty minute intermission.
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Jason has it all! He's got the golden fleece, a loving wife and twins. Wait...make that two loving wives each with a set of twins. How to pare down too much domestic bliss? Somebody has to die. Chicago Opera Theater presents JASON, Francesco Cavalli's Italian opera rooted in Greek mythology. Jason is married to Isifile. He leaves her to go in search of this great coat. The night before the golden fleece quest, Jason gets wasted and hooks up with Medea. The one night stand accelerates from lust to love quickly. Jason marries Medea conveniently forgetting about the little wife at home. Isifile wants Medea dead. Jason wants Isifile dead. The contracted killer executes the order wrong. JASON is a dark comedy about one man's obsession to have it all and then toss the undesirable elements into the sea.
In the lead, Franco Fagioli (Jason) plays the questionable hero. He is an arrogant cad siring kids in every port. Jason's two-timing ways are forgiven when Fagioli sings. It doesn't matter if the song is about 'the walk of shame' after anonymous sex or having his wife killed. When, Fagioli, a countertenor, sings, the audience is entranced in his exquisite vocal capabilities. Nobody cares what he is saying, they are amazed how he's saying it with flawless soprano-esque splendor. Two more sopranos play the wives. Sasha Cooke (Medea) is the delightful confident enchantress singing with moxie from the bubble bath. From the first wives club, Grazia Doronzio (Isifile) is the desperate housewife singing with beautiful conviction about her pending suicide. It's one of the final arias and fairly lengthy. (A woman behind me hissed, 'die already.' I'm guessing she was a second wife.) The main love triangle is complicated. To provide intensity relief, Cavalli added many comical characters played to perfection by this cast.
Julius Ahn (Demo) is the stuttering hunchback sidekick. Not only is Ahn amusing stammering through his songs, he is hilarious dancing with one platform shoe. Tyler Nelson (Delfa) is the drag lady-in-waiting. Enduring hot flashes from her steamy voyeurism, Nelson entertainingly muses about modern women 'trying out husbands' before marrying them. Adriana Chuchman (Alinda) is feisty as the unenthusiastic nanny more focused on her own love life than her lamenting employer.
The costumes (Kim Kovac) and set (Anka Lupes) are 1960's mod with strong orange and pink geometric shape influences. Kovac has dressed the ladies in distinct trendy styles: Medea-sexy flowing maxi-dresses, Isifile - tailored dress with matching jacket. Alinda - Gidget looking mini with gold skirt and white top. Delfa - shiny satin housecoat. It's the modernist look revisited in 2010 trends. I'd love to wear any of them... except for the housecoat. Lupes continues the theme with minimalist scenery: a chaise lounge, funky hanging lights and movable shiny scene dividers. The show's visual is altogether groovy!
Appreciating opera from his own vocal lesson days, Tom describes the show as "Sleek, poppy, acrid."
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Just 'a walk in the park' away from the Harris Theatre, we dine at Park Grill, 11 N. Michigan. Nestled among the tulips and trees at Millennium Park and framed by the Chicago skyline, the restaurant enjoys THE prime dining locale. At the Grill, they offer wine by the glass, quartino or bottle. A quartino is a carafe holding 1 ½ glasses of wine. Perfect! I order up the Malbec and Tom goes with the Tempranillo. Tom starts with the fire roasted tomato soup. Despite the plethora of beans, I'm able to get a bread dunking in. Hearty! Tom continues with the beet salad and I enjoy the fennel and apple one. It's light and flavorful with touches of candied almonds and blue cheese. For our main entrée, we split the black garlic risotto. It's the perfect sized meal for theatre. My only regret for Tom is I forgot to bring gum. Luckily, I'm not soliciting for second wife status.
JASON photos courtesy of Liz Lauren.