Monday, August 05, 2019

If I Were You

Jake Heggie coaching the two Brittomaras.  The pearl cast left, emerald right.
Conductor:  Nicole Paiement
Director:  Keturah Stickann

Brittomara (Mephistopheles): Brennan Blankenship
Fabian (Faust): Nicholas Huff
Diana (Gretchen): Anne-Marie MacIntosh
Selena: Elisa Sunshine
Putnam: Rafael Porto
Paul: Timothy Murray
David: Brandon Scott Russell
Rachel: Edith Grossman
Jonathan: Edward Laurenson

If I Were You by Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer, was commissioned for and presented by this summer's Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera. This is the first work commissioned by Merola, and this is its world premier.  The one requirement is that there must be a lot of roles.  The first four characters were double cast and ours was the emerald cast.  I'm going to try to explain this.

There are a few theatrical elements that need to be explained.  Brittomara appears various times throughout the opera in different outfits but always with red hair.  She is an ambulance attendant, an auto mechanic, a waitress, etc.  There are electrical flashes that seem to be entertaining but meaningless.  My friend and I discussed this at length and finally concluded that this was the device with two paddles that medical professionals use to revive someone whose heart has stopped.  Brittomara refuses to let Fabian die because she wants his soul.

We also argued over whether or not this was a Faust plot.  The final plot element that requires explaining is the major plot element.  Fabian falls for Diana, named for the goddess, whom he meets at the auto mechnic.  Initially she takes no notice of him.  He gives the devil his soul in order that he may become someone Diana would be interested in.  Most of the other characters are his reincarnations.  There are magic words and loud flashing sounds when the transfer takes place.

So "If I were you" followed by advice, advice, advice, isn't it at all.  It's if I were actually you and robbed you of your soul.  For me it almost worked.  I enjoyed the part after the intermission more than the earlier parts.  Our Diana, Anne-Marie MacIntosh, I enjoyed very much, but now that we've settled the argument, I'd like to see it again.

Moral of the story:  don't give away your soul.  It's the best thing you've got.

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