Ethel Friend Premieres Original Opera
Ethelyn Friend, whose solo show "Songs My Grandmothers Taught Me" was listed as one of the top ten shows of the decade 2000-2010 by The Daily Camera, brings a new music-theatre performance to Colorado audiences, joined by an ensemble of 5 actors.
______________", An Opera" is an experiment in both storytelling and musical performance staged in a Victorian house in old town Lafayette, creating a uniquely intimate and immersive audience experience. Through multiple musical styles, six characters unravel a secret hidden in the broken heart of a family.
One day, a writer recovers a memory of incest and tries to hide it inside an opera. We follow a collection of objects and characters through a Wednesday in 1922: a grand lady, her motherless granddaughter and their suicidal maid; a wooden egg disguised as Carl Jung, a black leather armchair. As they sing about their obsessions and longings, and the day's events unfold, it becomes clear that the writer is no longer in control of her opera.
"The opera is an invitation inside the brain of a writer while she's in the process of writing an opera," said director Erica Terpening-Romeo. "So, the opera is about the opera she's trying to write, and all the subconscious forces that are working on her to bring something else out. And that's why the opera is improvised - which means that we, the audience, as well as the performers get to witness an act of creation that's happening in real time." "Because we're performing it in a small Victorian house in Lafayette, we're working with scale in a way that fascinates me," noted creator Ethelyn Friend. "We're balancing the huge and excessive content that one thinks of as 'opera' with an intensely intimate setting. Some of the sounds are so quiet and tender, and some are fierce and 'too big' for the house. And the house itself evokes the place where we both love and hurt each other, which is one of the themes of the opera."
"To me, it's both a very personal and a collective story - an aspect of the Feminine reclaiming its power by looking at its trauma and suffering in the face," said performer Allison Caw. "It's about a woman looking at the underbelly, the shadow of her life and letting it rise to the surface." "In both form and content, the opera mimics the process a person goes through in recovery from trauma," said Friend. "We move through multiple layers of story, confusion, abstraction - things that you wish you could delete but can't. There's a set of fantastical characters and objects in a specific time and place, but it also moves outside of time and space. It's surreal and it's....real."<
"The words, the libretto is memorized but the music, the piano is improvising 100% of the time, and the vocalists are improvising with the piano," said Terpening-Romeo. "The audience is involved in the process. They're given the task to title the opera each night, and all of this creates a sense of live performance that I've never experienced before."
Early praise for "______________", An Opera:
"Ethelyn Friend will render an opera unlike any other, in the sweet spot between Gertrude Stein, Spike Jonze & Kendrick Lamar"
- Erik Ehn, Head of Playwrighting, Brown University
"A performance piece that embraces opera, operetta, extended voice, Dadaist poetry, and improvisation in absolutely new ways"--Stephen Wangh, Professor Emeritus, NYU, author of "An Acrobat of The Heart"
"The opera is a wild rumpus of varied talents. It is pure innovation." - Lisa Birman, author, "How To Walk Away"
Ethelyn Friend is a vocalist, actor and creator of original work. Recent performances include work with Tectonic Theatre Company in the development of two new plays by Leigh Fondakowski and Cassandra in an experimental aerial production of Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" at Baryshnikov Arts Center (NYC). Locally, she played the title role in the musical "Calamity!" (winner of Westword's Best of Denver Award for Best Actress in One-Woman Show), "Wit" at Theatreworks, Arvada Center Theatre's "House of Blue Leaves" and "Les Miserables," several seasons with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and Denver's Curious Theatre, for which she was twice the winner of the Denver Post's Ovation Award for Best Actress in A Comedy.
Gary Grundei is a composer, pianist and teacher whose music has been heard at the Kennedy Center, Denver Center Theatre Company, New York Stage and Film, Boulder Theater, Ogden Theatre, Boulder's Chautauqua Community House, Vintage Theatre, Occidental College, and The Ohio State University. He also writes for and plays with the band High Fiction, and directs goldenLotus studio in Lafayette
Erica Terpening-Romeo is a director, actor and writer who founded Anon It Moves, an experimental Shakespeare company in Portland, Oregon where she directed Henry V, and played the title role in Hamlet. In 2012 she was awarded Portland's Drammy Award for Best Director