Music by George Frideric Handel
Handel fills the theater with loving, lusting and loathing
|Chicago Opera Theater presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
First, there was Jason (2010), then there was Medea (2011), and now Chicago Opera Theater presents the final opera in the Medea trilogy, Teseo. After killing her kids and torching Corinth, Medea flees to Athens. She’s looking for a new male obsession. First, she considers King Egeo as a strategic marriage maneuver. But he reneges on the engagement. Luckily for Egeo, Medea has fallen for Teseo. Unfortunately, Teseo loves Agilea. And even worse, Agilea loves Teseo. So what happens when a sorceress gets pissed off? Cue the fury! Torture, extortion, poisoning, Medea is up to her old jealous antics. Teseo is Medea the sequel. The killer mom enters the dating pool for one last havocking hurrah.
Under the animated baton of Conductor Michael Beattie, George Frideric Handel’s opera fills the theater with loving, lusting and loathing. The orchestra, Baroque Band, boasts unique sounds as a theorbo, baroque guitar, and harpsichord are added into the mix. The robust melodies combined with the talented cast make for some powerhouse singing. The pitch stays high as the six principal roles are for 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos, and 2 countertenors. Even though I miss the heartier tones of a bass, baritone and tenor, this is all about a woman’s madness. And the exquisite music reinforces that. In controlled and furious arias, Renee Tatum (Medea) commands respect and attention. Tatum is scary great. She’s your worst nightmare to date or audition against. Her theatrics and vocal stylings are pure bewitching. The target of her fixation is Cecelia Hall (Teseo). A swaggering Hall charms as a wanted man. Hall and Manuela Bisceglie (Agilea) duet with tender-hearted passion. Bisceglie engages with a beautifully poignant performance of a woman willing to do anything for the man she loves. The perfect contrast between Bisceglie’s innocence and Tatum’s villainous is the stuff fairytales are made of.
The set, designed by Francois-Pierre Couture, is magnificent oversized glass doors. It gives an illusion of palace majesty while keeping the war outside. Lighting Designer Julian Pike uses the huge partitions to create shadowy intrigue both beyond the doors and inside the room. As Medea’s terror continues, destruction happens all around the stage. There is a particularly creepy scene that surprised me with cameos by Medea’s dead kids. Yikes!
Teseo provides closure for the woman who loses it…big time! As an opera and a story, “Medea” is the heart-wrenching core of this trilogy. There is nothing more devastatingly, horrific than killing your kids. Her story loses some of its edge as the newly kidless mom continues chasing men. Still, Teseo competes for attention and respect with a love-conquers-all allure and beguiling singing.
Teseo, sung in Italian with English supertitles, continues through May 2nd at Harris Theater at Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph (map). Tickets are $25-$125, and are available by phone (312-334-7777) or online here (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ChicagoOperaTheater.org. (Running time: 3 hours, includes intermission)
Renee Tatum (Soprano, Medea); Cecelia Hall (Mezzo, Teseo); Manuela Bisceglie (Soprano, Agilea); Deanna Breiwick (Soprano, Clizia); Gerald Thompson (Countertenor, Egeo); David Trudgen (Countertenor, Arcano)
behind the scenes
Michael Beattie (conductor); James Darrah (director, costumes, choreography); François-Pierre Couture (scenic design); Julian Pike (lighting); Brian Dickie (COT general director); Baroque Band (orchestra); Liz Lauren (photos)
3words: More eager to hear Handel than the Dalai Lama, M-Vo describes it with ‘a high note.’