Hannah Before: Dan Kempson
Hannah After: Brenda Patterson
Sunday's West Edge Opera presentation was As One by Laura Kaminsky, libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed. This opera premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music in September 2014 so this was only the west coast premiere.
This is an opera for today. I mean literally today. I think possibly they decided to present it before it became so very timely. It is about one person's transgender identity and retraces a life from about 12 years old.
It is theatrically very creative. A single individual is presented as two characters--one male and one female. When the story begins, primarily the male personality sings. They alternate, and in the end only the female is featured. Both stay present on the stage throughout. I might have preferred more duets.
Nothing specific is ever said. No names and generally no place names either. We move with them to what sounds like the Bay Area after high school, until an almost violent incident occurs. "What are you?" is asked.
This is followed by moving to an isolated area in Norway for intense introspection and meditation combined with searching for the northern lights. There is much anguish and much failure to see the storied lights. Finally a breakthrough occurs, and the northern lights are seen. "I sent everyone my new name."
It's most like a first person novel. There are no other singing roles, but situations are created with silent actors. A group of girls laugh.
I didn't know how I would react to this, but in the end I felt it worked well theatrically, especially considering what a difficult subject it is. The room was very hot. Instead of an orchestra, the piece was accompanied by a string quartet. The text was clipped and choppy with little help from the music in achieving any lyricism.