Michigan Opera Theatre

A View from the Bridge at the Michigan Opera Theatre

By Patricia Lawlis

The two act opera, A View from the Bridge, after Arthur Miller’s play by the same name, first premièred at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1999.  The story follows protagonist Eddie Carbone as his taboo attraction for his niece leads him to the role of informer and eventually results in his death.  Sung in English, Arnold Weinstein and Arthur Miller wrote the libretto, while William Bolcom composed the music.

michigan opera theatreThe idea for Arthur Miller’s original one-act play (later to be rewritten in two acts), came from the real life events of a longshoreman reporting two brothers to Immigration.  After hearing this story in 1947 and the subsequent events in Arthur Miller’s own life relating to the period of McCarthyism, he eventually captured the story in his play in 1955.[i]  A View from the Bridge is, in part, a culmination of the McCarthy era and Arthur Miller’s own experience with informers.  In the early 1950s, Arthur Miller was a member of a group of writers, journalists, and publishers who came together to write articles attacking McCarthy.  Although no one would publish these articles, the group drew notice and was eventually infiltrated and broken up by the FBI.[ii]  Miller would later be called before the HUAC in 1956, after the opening of A View from the Bridge, and his subsequent refusal to inform on the members of his anti-McCarthy group landed him in prison in contempt of Congress, although this sentence was later thrown out on appeal.[iii]

 

This play works in the operatic form both as a result of the social commentary, and because of the classical Greek style format of the original 1955 work.  The social commentary in A View from the Bridge is centered around Miller’s exploration into the lives of those who, like Eddie Carbone, jeopardize the cohesive nature of their communities as a result of fear, selfishness, or an unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions.[iv]  It was during Miller’s studies at the University of Michigan that he first turned to social commentary through theatre because “it was the cockpit of literary activity and you could talk directly to an audience and radicalize the people.”[v]  Unlike the more impersonal audience/performer relationship found in films, Miller’s works are best realized through a medium of live performance on the stage.[vi]  This is because Miller works to speak directly to his audience, he relies on the flexible nature of live theatre to capture the social issues of the moment and bring them to the attention of the audience, unlike in film where the recording is a stagnate production.  The idea that live performance is the best medium for his works comes from his theory that the ability for a work to survive depends on “an ability to read the shifting text of society… [along with] a desire to reach back beyond some temporal divide and acknowledge continuity.”[vii]  Miller advocates for live performance, as offered in theatre or opera, even as his views on a constantly evolving society allow for his works to transition to new mediums to reach new audiences, while still keeping ties to the past and his original work.

 

Along with the transitional benefits of a live audience, Miller’s 1955 play was an ideal piece for the operatic medium because, unlike the later revision, it was written in verse with a chorus following the influence of classical Greek dramatists.[viii]  Rather than needing to completely rework the text of the play for opera, therefore, large amounts of the script were already ‘singable’ and able to transition to a libretto.[ix]  Additionally, the nature of the chorus also played a major role in the ease of operatic transition.  In classical Greek drama as well as in operatic works, the chorus has the ability to bring subtext to the forefront as a driving element to the action.[x]  The result was that the 1955 play was already designed to speak to the audience and progress through the action with the same approach as in opera.  The influence of the Greek drama can also be seen in the role of Eddie as he follows in the wake of the classical Greek protagonist.  His tragedy plays out as one that is both easily predictable, and yet impossible, under the personality restrictions of his character, to avoid.[xi]

 

The final supporting feature of this work as an opera comes from the fact that Miller was completely cooperative and supportive of the endeavor to turn the work into an opera, and even played a major role in the shift from theatrical verse to libretto.[xii]  Working with Arnold Weinstein, the two writers approached William Bolcom with the first general sketch in 1994, and while much of the libretto came from the original work, Miller also provided complete cooperation and new text at Bolcom’s request.[xiii]

 

The operatic rendition of A View from the Bridge will run at the Michigan Opera Theatre from Saturday April 5th until Sunday April 13th, and a special free event on March 25th will feature composer William Bolcom as he talks about his collaboration with the two librettists and the creation of the work.  For more information about the production or the young adult, Access Opera program, go to http://www.michiganopera.org/.

Bibliography

Bigsby, Christopher, ed.  The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition.

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

 

Brater, Enoch, ed.  Arthur Miller’s America: Theater & Culture in a Time of Change.

Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.



[i] Christopher Bigsby, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 104.

[ii] Christopher Bigsby, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 3.

[iii] Christopher Bigsby, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 3.

[iv] Christopher Bigsby, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 4.

[v] Christopher Bigsby, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 2.

[vi] Enoch Brater, ed., Arthur Miller’s America: Theater & Culture in a Time of Change (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005) 237.

[vii] Christopher Bigsby, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 6.

[viii] Christopher Bigsby, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 13.

[ix] Enoch Brater, ed., Arthur Miller’s America: Theater & Culture in a Time of Change (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005) 238.

[x] Enoch Brater, ed., Arthur Miller’s America: Theater & Culture in a Time of Change (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005) 240.

[xi] Christopher Bigsby, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller: Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 17.

[xii] Enoch Brater, ed., Arthur Miller’s America: Theater & Culture in a Time of Change (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005) 237.

[xiii] Enoch Brater, ed., Arthur Miller’s America: Theater & Culture in a Time of Change (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005) 236, 241.

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Allee Willis Produces Love Song to Detroit

Allee WillisMetro Times

By 

January 29th, 2014

Allee Willis

Allee Willis is a “Grammy, Emmy, Tony, Webby award-winning and nominated songwriter, artist, director, producer, multi-mediaist, collector and party-thrower.” (Dang, she’s only one short of an EGOT). You may not know her, but you know her work: She wrote the theme song for Friends. More recently, she wrote a song called “The D,” a “salute to the city of Detroit and it’s people.”

Her mission, she explains, is not to re-construct the city, but rather to re-imagine it, alongside her fellow Detroiters.

Here’s a sneak peek of the behind-the-scenes production of the song:

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Detroit Symphony Orchestra Flash Mob Delights Canton Ikea Shoppers

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra recently arranged a flash mob at Ikea to promote its new Neighborhood Concert series in Canton.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Videos of orchestra flash mobs have been taking the internet by storm, but recently Canton Ikea shoppers witnessed it with their own two eyes and ears.

Patch.com

Posted by Nicole Krawcke

 

 

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

About 20 members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) arranged a flash mob inside Ikea on Jan. 12 to promote its newNeighborhood Concert Series in Canton.

Shoppers gathered around, many taking photos and videos with their smartphones, as the DSO brightened up the wintery day with Beethoven’s “Ode to Jöy.”

Gabrielle Poshadlo, DSO Communications and Public Relations Manager said the idea came while brainstorming ways to promote the new Canton concert series.

“We were thinking ‘what do people do in Canton? What is Canton known for?’ And people travel from all over southeastern Michigan to go to the Ikea in Canton, so it just seamed like a natural fit for us,” Poshadlo said.  ”We called the Ikea and asked if they would be interested in collaborating in some sort of performance and they were really responsive.”

A video of the performance was posted to YouTube on Jan. 23 and already has more than 19,000 views as of Monday.

[Watch the video above]

The DSO Canton Series is a four part concert series. The flash mob performance took place the weekend before first concert, on Jan. 17. The next three dates are schedules for March 14, May 9 and June 20.

All the concerts are at 8 p.m. at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill.

This is the first year Canton has been added to the DSO’s Neighborhood Concert Series.

“We’ve done a couple of Chamber recitals there (Village Theater) before and the musicians really like the venue, it’s a high quality space,” Poshadlo said. ”We’ve had really good audience response there also so we decided to make it a full concert series.”

For more information on the DSO’s Neighborhood Concert Series visit www.dso.org.

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Baker’s Keyboard Lounge to Open in Downtown Detroit

dbusiness.com

Baker’s Keyboard Lounge

Baker's Keyboard Lounge

Marking its 80th anniversary, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is opening a second location this fall, and is working with Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services to find space in downtown Detroit’s lower Woodward corridor or in Capitol Park near the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. The original Baker’s Keyboard Lounge opened as a sandwich shop in 1933, and began booking jazz pianists the following year.

“We’re talking with our architects to determine which downtown space would best suit our customers,” says Hugh William “Bill” Smith III, who acquired the legendary club on Livernois, near Eight Mile, in 2011 with Eric J. Whitaker. “The acoustics are our first concern, followed by the aesthetics. We’re going to have all of the things Baker’s is known for including a piano-shaped bar (painted with a keyboard motif), booth seating, and a stage area.

“Baker’s is a diamond in this city, this state, and across the world. Now we’re going to reach a much larger audience,” Smith says.

Since 1934, Baker’s has hosted such legendary jazz artists as Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Earl Klugh, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, and George Benson. Klugh says he began playing at the club in the 1970s as a teenager (accompanied by his mother).

 

Smith says Capitol Park is an ideal location. In recent years, several buildings bordering the triangular park have changed hands. Bedrock and its various entities have acquired some historic structures, as well as Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services in Detroit and Karp and Associates in Lansing.

“We’re looking at two or three options right now, and if we go on Woodward we’ll have around 175 seats, while in Capitol Park we can have 200-plus seats,” Smith says. “We’re also planning to have a kitchen, and we have to account for that space.”

Smith and Whitaker are working with architect Beverly Hannah Jones, a partner of Hannah-Neumann/Smith in Detroit, and Joel Smith, president of Neumann/Smith Architecture, with offices in Southfield and Detroit. “This project is not in lieu of but in addition to,” Joel Smith says. “There are a lot of musicians looking for a place to play. I remember driving from Ann Arbor to go to Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, and I never stopped going. We couldn’t be more excited to work on a project like this.”

Bill Smith says the new location will include an Art Deco-inspired design, and there will be tilted mirrors above the stage so patrons can view the pianist’s hands. “We really want our 80th anniversary to be special, and we will take the same experience we have on Livernois and transport it to downtown Detroit,” Bill Smith says.

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Music Together winter semester starting soon!

Leaves Are Falling All Around!

While it seems like we just started the Fall semester, we are already halfway through! This is one of our favorite times in each semester – when we have all learned most of the music and we are more confident to sing a little louder, share and laugh more during class, layer our voices in rounds and experience how natural it is to improvise musically! The children have also settled in and some are surprising us every week with more and more singing and moving. We hope your families are enjoying how the Flute song collection is becoming part of your car rides, conversations at home, and special moments too!

International Peace Day

Thank you to all of our families who were able to join in the International Peace Day celebration! More than 50 people of all ages gathered together at the Woods Library with the Grosse Pointe Momprenuers and the Detroit Children’s Choir to help spread peace through music.

Detroit Children's Choir

The Detroit Children’s Choir’s Artistic Director, Lauri Hogle, shared her thoughts on the event which sums it up perfectly, “On a day such as the International Day of Peace, I cannot think of a more fitting celebration of peace, love, joy and unity than the older children of the Detroit Children’s Choir joining in song with younger children of Music Together. A powerful bond across the ages was formed in today’s performance workshop as world music rounds were sung, hands were spontaneously joined, and older mentored younger through singing and movement. It was a delight for our children to participate in this special day of partnership that brought together Detroit area children in the joy of music-making!”

It was very special for all who could attend and if you missed it, you can still enjoy the experience through our video recap of the celebration.

Our celebration was also part of the international Music Together celebration and you can see how programs from around the world celebrated at the site.

Every day presents an opportunity to spread peace and it can be as easy as sharing a song or even just a smile with others!

Upcoming Parent Education Event – November 9

In just a few weeks we will be hosting parent education events in Canton at 4:00 pm and in Grosse Pointe at 1:00 pm. Center Director and teacher Sarah Boyd will lead the discussion of how music helps throughout children’s developmental process, how parents are the most important model with music engagement, and age-specific activities to encourage musicality. We will have an activity for children during the parent discussion and will also have a family sing along after. Please RSVP to sarah@grossepointemusicacademy.com if you plan to attend. If you are unable to attend, please ask your teacher specific questions for your child or feel free to email questions to sarah@grossepointemusicacademy.com.

Winter Pre-Registration Starting Soon!

You will soon receive details for Winter Registration. Remember it pays to register early since during the pre-registration phase there is a $10 discount.

Hummingbirds Music Together looks forward to sharing many more songs together this semester!

Sarah Boyd, Hazimah Sovoda and Emily Schienke

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