The Trick She Turns | Bleader

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Trick She Turns

Posted By on 05.16.08 at 02:51 PM

A Flowering Tree, the latest operatic collaboration from John Adams and Peter Sellars, is based on a South Indian folktale with a Cinderella plot. A teenage girl from a painfully poor family discovers there’s something she can do (don’t tell mom) that will bring in quick cash and attract a prince. As the story goes, this involves turning into a tree. Chicago Opera Theater’s production is big and bustling, with nine dancers, a 24-voice chorus mostly from COT’s Young Artist Program (singing in Spanish), and a 57-piece orchestra. But this production, directed by Nicola Raab, is also Zen-like, with a spare stage and limited visual palette. The music is more lush and romantic than previous Adams operas, but he still gives the gorgeous stuff to the orchestra while solo vocal parts tend to either plod or pierce. The libretto, by both Adams and Sellars, is glacial, with a narrator (Sanford Sylvan) explaining everything that befalls the girl (nicely sung by Natasha Jouhl) and her prince (Noah Stewart). Adams conducted opening night; his shimmering, episodic instrumental score, like distinct blossoms on a tree, is the reason to be there. Performances continue at the Harris Theater May 17 (when Adams will conduct again), and May 20, 23, and 25. $40-$120.

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