BWW Reviews: THE SCARLET IBIS World Premiere in New York
THE SCARLET IBIS is one of three new operas to have its world premiere as a part of this year's PROTOTYPE FESTIVAL, New York's incubator for cutting edge, interdisciplinary performance. With any new work, I never fail to ask myself: Did it have an emotional impact? Was it good enough that I would see it again? Does it have enough appeal to revival again? The answers: yes, yes, and yes.
Initially, I was apprehensive about THE SCARLET IBIS because of its source material. In the shorty story by James Hurst about two siblings, Brother is resentful when Doodle is born with physical disabilities. Brother develops a physical therapy plan of sorts for Doodle, who is ultimately pushed passed his physical limits. When Doodle dies, covered in blood, Brother recalls a scarlet ibis that died in the family's yard months earlier.
Though I doubted there was enough material in the story to develop into a full-length musical drama, I am glad composer Stefan Weisman and librettist David Cote proved me wrong. THE SCARLET IBIS is a poignant piece that deals sensitively with difficult issues and emotions. To me, in fact, the narrative works better as an opera than as a short story.
Weisman's score is traditional enough at its core that it even borrows a snatch from Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten. Traditional doesn't mean banal or predictable, however. Cote's libretto worked very well, with nothing sounding too out of place or unnatural for the world they created - extraordinary considering how little dialogue is in the original short story.
The ease with which the score and the music and libretto worked together allowed me to forgot - for the most part - that I was watching an opera, and allowed me to focus on the characters. And that's all I really want - good storytelling.