SARATOGA SPRINGS — Opera Saratoga’s riveting production of Marc Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” on Tuesday afternoon made people almost want to stand up and cheer. With timely themes like corruption, moral cowardice and the power of the rich to meddle, it proves that nothing ever changes, but sometimes the power of the people prevails.
The 1937 opera, which the government shut down opening night before it found another theater, has become a Broadway legend. OS’ landmark production is considered the first time the opera has received a full-scale showing with sets, costumes and orchestra. The libretto, which Blitzstein wrote, focuses on the pro- and anti-union forces at a factory whose workers are attempting to unionize. Although the theme was serious, Blitzstein provided plenty of sly sardonic moments.
Sung in English with much dialogue, it has a large cast that on Tuesday was exceptional. And each singer proved to be not only a good actor but, under director/choreographer Lawrence Edelson, adept comics. Stage craft was at a high, imaginative level with blockings that were adept. Pacing was fast, too.
Among the outstanding singers were mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson as the prostitute, whose lustrous, rich voice was a beacon; Justin Hopkins’ deeply resonant bass as the corrupt Reverend Salvation; baritone Christopher Burchett as the tough Larry Foreman. The near-capacity crowd was so into the 90-minute opera that at curtain calls, the rich Mister Mister and his wife Mrs. Mister were booed, although they both sang well.
Brandon Baker designer the focused lighting scheme and Martin T. Lopez provided a multilevel set that allowed for different scenes. The brilliant orchestra under John Mauceri played Blitzstein’s colorful, often lyrical, jazzy score with great enthusiasm. There was even a Hawaiian guitar. Final show is at 2 p.m. Saturday.
NYCB pleases crowd
On Wednesday, the New York City Ballet opened with the merry “Jeu de Cartes” (1992) that Peter Martins choreographed to Igor Stravinsky’s punky, sardonic score. With everyone dressed in Ian Falconer’s marvelous card costumes, the dancers performed tight little patterns and steps. Megan Fairchild worked with three other dancers, often doing lots of spins and pique turns across the stage. The orchestra under Daniel Capps sounded brilliant.
Two local premieres were also performed. Justin Peck’s “The Decalogue” (May 2017) is a beautiful ballet for 10 dancers to Sufjan Steven’s music for piano performed here by the excellent Susan Walters. Peck broke up the dance into 10 segments, each with different groupings. His choreography matched the music perfectly to create a seamless, smooth, elegant line with very pretty ensembles or duos with complex step combinations.
He often got the dancers offstage with inventive moves, which were often humorous. The dancers were all excellent, but the large crowd seemed to especially like Gonzalo Garcia, Jared Angle, Sara Mearns and Rebecca Krohn, who got three curtain calls and a standing ovation.
Alexei Ratmansky’s new work “Odessa” (May 2017) was as exotic as the music by Leonid Desyatnikov. Flavors of Eastern Europe, klezmer, dance halls and gypsy music inspired the shimmery, folk-like dresses, the blood-red lighting and the dance moves. It was almost like a triptych through back-alley scenes of rough play. Everyone danced well, but Joaquin de Luz dazzled the crowd with his centered footwork, huge leaps and vigorous presence.
The ballet continues Thursday night and Friday night and has a matinee and night performance on Saturday.