On Friday night, Jonathan and I went to a showing of The Impresario put on by Gateway Opera.
Before I dive into my review on Friday’s show, I want to tell you a little bit about Gateway Opera, generally:
- It is a non-profit company that aims to be a “gateway” into opera both for audiences and new artists.
- Straight from their website, their mission is: Gateway Opera brings an innovative opera experience to St. Louis. By presenting opera in a way that is fun, accessible, and affordable, we reach new audience members with this fantastic art form. Our performances also provide career-enhancing opportunities by giving emerging professional artists the chance to perform leading roles.
- The performances are put on in English, to make the layman feel comfortable an understand what is going on.
- They just wrapped up their second season. Their first season had two showing of The Old Maid and the Thief. This season, they had two showing of The Boor and two showings of The Impressario.
We first learned about Gateway Opera because before their first season last year, Jonathan’s coworker, Matt, announced that he and his wife had started GO and were encouraging people to purchase tickets for their first show. Now, I’ll admit, at the time my thoughts were, “I don’t think I’ll like this, but we should support Jonathan’s friend.”
I was so glad that we did! We really enjoyed the show, and looked forward to their second season.
On to the review of the Impresario:
The Plot: The show was based on Mozart’s “The Impresario,” but was adapted to be presented in English and the jokes were modernized. In GO’s version, the setting was Gateway Opera auditions, but twenty years in the future. The company’s benefactor, Frank (or The Impresario) had promised auditions to a string of his mistresses. The ladies, however, were not all prepared for auditioning for an all-English opera company! The first auditioner started in Italian, but when urged to sing in English, ended up trying to translate as she went. It was very comical! Another auditioner had run a German piece through google translate, resulting in hilarious grammatical errors. We finally get to two girls, one a famous opera star and one a new up-and-comer. Frank has promised both girls lead roles, which leads to rivalry between the prima donnas, who sing-battle it out. Not knowing what to do with the fighting girls, Frank somehow ends up promising both girls lead roles and big salaries. Overall, the plot was very funny and it was great to see it poking playful fun at Gateway Opera.
The Locale: I can’t help but compare the venue, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, to the location last year (which, admittedly, I can’t remember exactly where it was). But, last year’s $20 ticket got you a slightly roomier seat and an adult beverage, whereas this year’s venue felt a bit more cramped and that beverage was an extra $7. Also, as someone short, it was really disappointing to have a tall person sit directly in front of me right when the show started. So I had to lean around and felt like I missed bits of it. That’s not really Gateway’s fault, though, so all in all I’d say it was a decent venue, and next time I better get my rear end there right at doors opening to get a front seat. (I thought getting an edge seat would be sufficient but we were asked to move to the middle so that late arrivers could easily find a seat – so maybe truthfully I should have just shown up a bit late! )
The Music: I’m no music expert, but I think that’s part of what makes GO delightful. The singing was absolutely beautiful, and I loved that this showing eased the non-Opera-proficient viewer gently into some Italian and German pieces without feeling like we couldn’t follow what was going on. They also featured a very talented pianist. It was also really neat to see a bigger cast than last year, and hear pieces where the different parts worked together.
Overall, I’d give this particular showing 4 stars. I would love to see GO grow as an organization and have stronger sets and costumes in the future, and maybe bigger venues as they, themselves get bigger. I would highly recommend a GO show to anyone who enjoys music, plays, and/or humor! I might even (eventually) get brave enough to see a non-English opera someday….