Smile Politely

Til the fat man sings

Opera is not for everyone. It is a performance genre that requires great skill, hours of self-effacing rehearsal and lessons, and a grand persona that most simply can’t muster. I flirted with opera in college as I careened from arts degree to arts degree, until I lighted on “something sensible”—teaching. It was just as well, really. The soul-crushing world of acting was not something my fragile psyche could have endured at the time, and music—classical or otherwise—required a self-analysis and criticism that I thought took the joy out of things. Couldn’t I just sing? That said, I did do vocal lessons and appeared in a random opera or two (sometimes even singing a real part!), so I know a bit about this particular art form. It’s grueling work—that is certainly to be acknowledged and respected. It also can be a bit vexing to a average theatergoing person because movement, expressions, and staging take a serious backseat to vocal quality and performance.

The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts production of Giuseppe Verdi’s, Falstaff was a lovely night at the opera. A light comic tale loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and his much-used comic character Falstaff, the piece showcases a robust knave romancing two wives in order to get into their…husbands’ coffers. The comic snag, of course, is that rogues have unreliable bedfellows. And when the wives learn of the big guy’s plans, they make some plans of their own—with the assistance of a husband and daughter and maid or two. It’s all good fun and every romantic complication is neatly resolved by the end of the third act.

The Krannert production is an amusing evening of music and merriment with a lovely wood-grained setting and colorful and fun costumes by Collette Pollard and Amy Chmielewski, respectively. The lighting plot is pretty matter-of-fact, and the staging allows for the vocalists to shine throughout. This is all as it should be, of course.

And shine they do. At the Thursday performance I saw, Timothy Renner was an impressive Sir John Fallstaff with a booming voice and respectable comic timing. His performance was enhanced by impressive support by JinUk Lee, You Jin Kim, Mileeyae Kwon, Cassandra Jackson, Kristoffer Cleto,  and Banjamin Krumreig. Humberto Carlo Rivera and Jorge Belonni also provided some good comic timing as Falstaff’s rogue minions. 

I would have liked a bit more variation in the setting, perhaps, but the functionality and richness of the set were logical choices. That aside, this is an extremely competent and highly enjoyable night of entertainment for those looking for a different venue to explore. So hop to it, Shakespeare fans and opera virgins! Go get your arts fix, and see some opera! You’ll be glad you did!

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