*Blood Moon,* 1/9/20
I saw *Blood Moon* at the Prototype Festival on 1/9/20. It’s a new opera with music by Garrett Fischer and a libretto by Ellen McLaughlin. If the name Ellen McLaughlin rings a bell, it might be because she played The Angel in the original Broadway cast of *Angels in America.*
Prototype is an opera company that opened eight years ago, presenting chamber operas that are brand new or new to New York. They have a very short season (the current season is just over a month long), their operas as user-friendly (never more than two hours long), presented at various venues around the city (*Blood Moon* was done in a downstairs black box auditorium at Baruch College), and featuring off-the-beaten track composers. And Lord, it's CHEAP! I got a four-performance series for $120 total.
*Blood Moon* was a sort of Japanese folk tale with three singers and a puppeteer who also danced. Ju-eh, a male soprano, played the moon. I wasn’t always wowed by his singing but he knew what he was doing and definitely knew how to work his gown. Bass Wei Wu played the nephew, he had a wonderful, strong voice. My favorite was mezzo Nina Yoshida Nelsen as the aunt - - she was an extraordinary singer, with a ripe, flavorful voice. She reminded me of the great American mezzo Rosalind Elias.
The opera was directed by Rachel Dickstein, her staging was straightforward and used the most of the limited stage. Conductor Steven Osgood kept the music moving forward and kept the ensemble together - - no small feat, with one set of musicians on his side of the stage (flute/piccolo, viola da gamba/cello, harmonium, and piano/electronic keyboard), two other musicians on the other side of the stage (both playing large Japanese drums called taiko, one also playing a bamboo flute), and the singers in the middle.
The music was colorful and the writing for the voices was idiomatic, with the text well set. I don’t think you could ask for a better production of the opera, everything was first rate. And yet I would not classify it a success. What was missing? Maybe the story itself wasn’t very interesting. And maybe there was a whiff of earnestness. Let’s say that I was glad to have seen it, but I don’t imagine it will get very many subsequent productions.