<< -- 2 -- Kelly Ferjutz SANITY TO INSANITY
Baritone Stephen Hartley was a steady presence, trying to maintain his equilibrium in the unsteady situation in which he found himself. He has not seen his friend for some ten years, and is aghast at the unexpected changes he finds once he arrives at the Usher home. His gift of the music box in the guise of the house (lit from within), rose eerily upward, and remained there throughout the entire opera, until the very ending, when it descended. The two smaller roles -- the servant, sung by Robert Taylor, and physician by Nicholas Edwin -- were well done, also.
The set as designed by Scott Knowles consisted of various archways and bits of furniture which could be turned slightly to give another perspective when necessary. Costumes by S Q Campbell established the time and place of the events portrayed by the words and music. And while the opera's music is written in the minimalist style, there were melodies and lyrical episodes accompanied by the frequent chugging rhythms. The orchestra's percussionist, Mel Csicsila, was almost another character, so important were his many contributions, whether as music box or drums of portent.
Surtitles made the lyrics completely understandable. Some of the special effects worked better than others: the projections of Madeline on the scrim were terrific, but the neon stripes on the guitar and around one doorway were mostly confusing.
The Fall of the House of Usher is a sad and unhappy tale, to be sure. This production, however, was anything but. I'm quite certain the original author and the composer and his lyricist Arthur Yorinks would have been quite pleased had any of them happened to be in the theatre to see it for themselves.
From left to right: Michael Gentile as Roderick, Andrea Chenoweth as Madeline and Stephen Hartley as William in Lyric Opera Cleveland's production of 'The Fall of the House of Usher'. Photo © 2005 Steve Zorc
Lyric Opera Cleveland has announced the repertoire for next year: The Pirates of Penzance, The Abduction from the Seraglio and Das Barbecü -- a condensation of Wagner's Ring, set on a Texas ranch. It originated at Seattle Opera in 1991 before moving to Off-Broadway in the mid-1990s. Five actors play more than 30 parts.