Last night I got one of my Christmas presents when Kish and I attended Opera Columbus’ Mission: Seraglio. Opera tickets were one of my stocking stuffers.
The timing was excellent for another reason. Mission: Seraglio is a reimagining of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, and yesterday just happened to be Mozart’s birthday. The wily Wolfie, were he still among us, would have been 261 yesterday.
Opera Columbus’ production features all of the same beautiful music, but the setting and dialogue of the opera are transformed into a ’60s James Bond caper with a dashing spy, an archvillain apparently bent on world domination of a sort, and “Bond women” galore. The modifications turn Seraglio into an outright comic romp, from the point at the outset when a tiny doll figure parachutes through the Southern Theatre, to the suggestive rearrangement of topiary plants by a sex-obsessed gardener, to a clever use of the lyric translation display, to the finale where one of the characters is securely wrapped in a straitjacket and hauled away. The sets are great and the new dialogue is clever and occasionally laugh out loud funny. And, while the characters clearly enjoyed their light-hearted trip down James Bond Lane, they also did justice to the lovely, often passionate songs that Mozart created. I think he would have approved.
Mission: Seraglio shows that opera is a vibrant, flexible art form where there is still lots of room for creativity, even for a work that was written more than 230 years ago. It’s another job well done by Opera Columbus, and you can still see it at the Southern this weekend.
Last night Kish and I joined our friends Dr. Science and the Bionic Half-Marathoner for the Columbus Songwriters Association Finale Showcase at Notes. We were there to see their son, Jack, compete with more than a dozen other local songwriters.
It was also our introduction to the Columbus Songwriters Association, an interesting organization that says a lot about what our city has to offer. The CSA seeks to nurture and support the creative impulses of lots of homegrown musicians, by doing things like hosting Songwriter Showcase events where the musicians get to perform live at venues like Notes. The ultimate goal of the CSA is to make Columbus into a music city, like Nashville. It’s a worthy goal, because any great city needs vibrant music and arts scenes. In that regard, we thought it was pretty cool that we walked to the CSA Finale Showcase directly after leaving a great performance of La Boheme by Opera Columbus, which meant that we touched very different points on the live music spectrum in the space of just a few downtown blocks.
At last night’s event, 19 different musicians performed their own songs before an overflow crowd that jammed the club. After each song, audience members completed evaluation cards for each performer. The cards were eventually collected and counted, along with the reactions of a panel of judges, to decide who made it to round two. Although we had to hit the road before the second round began, participating in the first round was a lot of fun and showed that Columbus has a lot of budding musical talent. We particularly liked Jack, of course, but I also want to mention Maya Mougey, a teenager who showed tremendous poise in playing guitar and singing a song she wrote about losing touch with her sister who had moved on to high school. We sat next to what looked like a table of her friends who cheered like crazy for her when she was finished, and we did, too.
Kish and I are at the intermission of a Sunday afternoon performance of La Boheme by Opera Columbus. She bought the tickets as a special gift, because she knows I love opera and La Boheme is a special favorite. It a wonderful show that captures Puccini’s special genius.