Review "Medea": Executes as an Empathetic Epic!

Audio Podcast at ITUNES 
Narrated by Joshua Volkers
At Harris Theater in Millennium Park
Composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Libretto by Thomas Corneile
Conducted by Christian Curnyn
Directed by James Darrah
In French with English supertitles 
April 27th and 29th at 7:30pm
May 1st at 3pm
Running Time:  Two hours and forty-five minutes includes a twenty minute intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Stole a woman’s man, kids and coat, Creuse aspires for the happy ending.  Well, not so fast, princess!  His ex is a witch… literally and vengefully.  Chicago Opera Theater presents MEDEA, a French opera in five acts.  Behind every conquering hero, there is a devoted woman.  Jason has secured the legendary fleece with the murdering help of the little wife.  He, Medea and the boys escape to Corinth for refuge.  Medea suspects Jason loves the Corinth princess.  Jason insists that he only is pretending to love Creuse to secure the family’s safety.  When the King banishes Medea as a murderous sorceress, Jason convinces her to abandon her kids and her coat to the princess’ protection. Once her husband reveals himself to be a lying cheat, an obsessed Medea summons dark forces for vengeance.  Their marital separation slaughters any hopes of a reconciliation.  MEDEA mesmerizes with killer singing and spellbinding movement.  

The set is stark with strips of wood jetting up.  Scenic designer Francoise-Pierre Couture foreshadows the pending storm and wreckage.  The simplistic becomes powerful as Julian Pike lights the set with an erie silhouette and underworld shadowy glow.  Under the direction of James Darrah, the action takes a ballet-like quality.  Darrah uses the chorus to provide visual stimulation to accompany the singing.  Washing their hands, tying up the princess, dropping to the ground,  the synchronized rhythm transfixes as ritual.  Even turning their back on the audience, the chorus purposefully supports the focal point.  The effect captivates as the chorus continually shifts alliances between the principals.

Mac-Antoine Charpentier composed a haunting score to capture the greek tragedy.  With libretto by Thomas Corneille and conducted by Christian Curnyn, the music builds the tumultuous tempest brewing.  From arrival, Anna Stephany (Medea) bewitches the audience with her transformation.  She sings fiercely through the stages of grief.  Stephany’s intensity is beautifully poignant.  Her duet with Evan Boyer (Creon) questions Jason’s love and honor with splendid confusion.  Stephany’s strong performance garners empathy as the betrayed woman.  At one point, Jason ripping his coat from her loving clutches gets a disgusted chorus of gasps from the ladies in the audience.  Despite being a tool-of-a-husband, Colin Ainsworth (Jason) charms as a lover.  First singing solo, Ainsworth ponders delightfully if his wife had only loved him a little less.  Later in an enchanting duet with Micaela Oeste (Creuse), he endears with steadfast passion.  Oeste is irresistible to Jason and the audience.  Her spirited singing enthralls in lively flirtations and deadly lamenting with her betrothed. It’s a sparkler affair that dazzles until it suddenly goes poof! 

‘Hell has answered.  My victory is certain.’ Medea is a deranged person remembered for killing her children.  Even though Chicago Opera Theater’s MEDEA still rivets with a ‘Fatal Attraction’ meets Susan Smith plot, the retribution feels more warranted. Kid killing aside, this MEDEA channels the energies of Hillary Clinton, Tina Turner, Elizabeth Edwards into one huge lethal wallop against husband infidelity.  MEDEA executes as an empathetic epic.  The verdict… MEDEA kills with vindication satisfaction.   Guilty as charged!

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