Monday, October 5, 2009

Lincoln-A Poetic Opera-A Review

This weekend, my wife and I headed to the Upper West Side in Manhattan to see Lincoln-A Poetic Opera. It was a world premiere and we and the rest of the audience were the first to see it. (Please excuse the blurriness of the pictures. We weren't allowed and my wife had to take this picture on the sly.)

The name of the piece is a misnomer. An opera is a series of musical pieces linked by a loose (often very loose) story line. There is no such common thread here. A more accurate name for this piece should have been Lincoln-The Choral Work. As the composer George Andoniadis stated in his notes, it was a true meditation on our President.

The soloists Timothy Bentch and Elizabeth Racheva gave good performances as the First Couple. They delivered their vocal parts with grace and skill like the experienced opera singers that they are. Ms. Racheva also acted well as the concerned Mary Todd Lincoln when her husband recounts the dream of his assassination. The Manhattan Choral Ensemble also did a fine job as the chorus in the work. The organizers picked the concern venue very well. The Holy Trinity Church was an excellent concern setting. The acoustics were fantastic as we heard the soloists' voices reverberated through the building's dome.

The music was strong. The piece started with an excellent violin solo. Lincoln's recounting of his dream is haunting and dramatic. The best portion of the piece is the Praying, set to the words of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. There is also a lovely duet at the end between the character Eternity and Lincoln.

Despite the strength of the music, my chief criticism is the content of the piece. There is absolutely no sense of Lincoln the individual. The man of vision, determination and wit is lost in this piece. The composer focuses excessively on his martyrdom. The words of the libretto reinforce this sense of doom. In one portion, Lincoln sings, "I think we are near the end at last." The music and the choral works make it sound as if the President's death was preordained. We all know that it wasn't. Given the relentless melancholy of the work, it should have been called a Requiem for Lincoln.

Though the music is well-done, Lincoln-A Poetic Opera does not do true justice to Lincoln the man.

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