Thursday night I attended the sold out premiere of composer Jack Perla's chamber opera LOVE/HATE at the ODC Theater. The 80 minute work is for 4 singers & a quartet of piano, violin, cello & clarinet. The audience laughed at the droll overture imitating annoying cellphone ringtones. In the opera's plotless scenario, a man awkwardly hits on a woman at a Muni bus stop. This is the pretext for 14 skit-like scenes that are fantasies & flashbacks. The score is a mix of musical styles, sounding variously like opera, show tunes, jazz, pop & Philip Glass. The libretto by Rob Bailis is wordy & urbane.
The cast is young & cute & communicates a feeling of fun. Tenor Thomas Glenn sings with clarity & ease, & he moves very comfortably on stage. His voice thinned only when he had to sing very high. Soprano Marina Boudart Harris has a sturdy, grounded sound, & I liked her in a serious aria about watching a sleeping woman. Mezzo Laura Krumm has a sustained, velvety voice & was convincing in her character's aria expressing insecurity. Baritone Ao Li's voice is deep & round, & his singing was lovely in an aria ending with the words "assuage me." Everyone's voice seemed to get bigger as the show progressed, & the final ensemble was amazingly loud.
The production's minimal props, rolled on & off by stage managers, made the settings clear. Everyone seemed to enjoy the inflatable sheep named Agnes. The singers play multiple roles, with simple costume changes. Though the instrumentalist were at the side of the stage, conductor David Hanlon stood front & center. He is a conscientious leader, & all the performers paid attention to him. I liked the light but varied playing of cellist Adelle Akiko Kearns. Robert Mollicone was kept busy playing both the piano & an electronic keyboard.
The audience was supportive & laughed eagerly at all the comic bits. A wine & dessert reception followed. It rains in the opera, so when we heard booming thunder & heavy rain from the storm outside, it just seemed like really good sound effects.
Composer, Jack Perla
Librettist, Rob Bailis
Conductor, David Hanlon
Director, M. Graham Smith
Cupid/Samantha/Oracle of 3rd Street: Marina Boudart Harris
Laura/O.M.G. Girl: Laura Krumm
George/Casanova: Ao Li
Death/Darren/Sex Guru: Thomas Glenn
Vioin, Michelle Maruyama
Cello, Adelle Akiko Kearns
Ryan Ibbetson, Clarinet
Robert Mollicone, Piano
April 12, 2012