Argento in Living Color
By Hanna Morgan
Colorful. My first experience at an opera was, well, colorful. The costumes of the eleven UMD students who performed in the Dominick Argento opera, Postcard from Morocco, represented every hue on the color wheel. The various characters were dressed in beautiful purple Victorian dresses and striped vests and carried around decorated pieces of luggage of different shapes, sizes and hues. Besides the visual color, the opera itself was colorful, or unique, in its plot. This kept me engaged throughout the opera, as I had no idea what would happen next.
The opera takes place at a train station in Morocco, where seven travelers are waiting for their trains. As they wait, they probe each other for stories, and are often interrupted by a never-ending stream of puppet shows. The lyrics were displayed on screens facing the audience, which proved to be extremely helpful to me throughout the show. None of the songs really seemed to blend together, and were composed of silly words and phrases, like "is that a hat box?--no." One woman sang about how she always travels with a mirror, as to make sure she doesn't have marmalade on her face. Two men argued over the sturdiness of a Viking ship versus a canoe. What an experience!
According to Linda Mabbs, the artistic director of Argento's visiting collection here at UMD, the lyrics for this opera come from diaries, letters and personal experiences of Argento. I was impressed by many of the beautiful descriptions in the lyrics, but oftentimes confused as to where the plot was going.
Various puppet shows, some funny--the puppets left the stage and bopped each other on the head--and others alarming--one character repeatedly saved a woman from near--death experiences, like being tied to a railroad with a train hurtling towards her--were dispersed throughout the story, which added to the nonsensical feel of the piece.
There was a live orchestra below the stage, and, from my seat in the balcony, I could see when each instrument played. It was cool to see what noises were coming from where.
The student voices were remarkable. The range each singer could cover, and the passion each singer put into their roles was truly amazing.
I enjoyed my first experience at the opera, and look forward to future ones!