Fringe review: 'Fallen Angels'
By Charles T. Downey
Monday, July 16, 2012
The Capital Fringe Festival’s few performances of new and recent operas, staged light and fast by small guerrilla companies, have become a regular summer pleasure. Much of what one hears will probably go nowhere, but the opportunity for local composers to get their work in front of an audience, no matter how small, is welcome. Michael Oberhauser, whose one-act chamber opera “Magnum Opus” in 2009 was one of the better Fringe operas, returns this year with the one-hour trilogy “Fallen Angels.”
Oberhauser’s style lies between music theater and opera, with a tonal harmonic palette and fairly straightforward metrical style but just enough dissonance and challenging vocal writing to keep the ear interested. He began the final opera of the trilogy -- which was not ultimately produced -- for the 2010 Fringe Festival. Oberhauser, who is now a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, added new parts that were more dramatic song cycle, weaving together settings of older poetry, including a poem by James Joyce, most of whose works finally entered the public domain this year.
The plots are based, very loosely, on three biblical characters. Soprano Courtney Kalbacker handled the shrieking high part of Lilith, who, in later Jewish writings, is believed to have been Adam’s first wife. Joseph Pleuss was a robust Adam and Shelby Claire an easily tempted Eve. The second part, based on Satan tempting Jesus in the desert, featured strong ensemble work from baritones Andrew Sauvageau and Benjamin Taylor and mezzo-soprano Francesca Aguado. Annie Gill’s feisty Jezebel, an aging singer instead of the Phoenician princess who challenged Elijah, was an interesting twist on the theme of idol worship. Oberhauser conducted a valiant chamber group that accompanied ably.