The Fall Of The House Of Usher

Review by Willard Manus

Back in 1987 composer Philip Glass turned Edgar Allan Poe's macabre short-story THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER into a mini-opera. This little-seen work was recently revived by Long Beach Opera and given a production that was as problematic as it was fiery.

Director Ken Cazan chose to interpret the relationship between the childhood friends, Roderick (Ryan MacPherson) and William (Lee Gregory) as homosexual, even though they haven't seen each other since they were children. Their long-surpressed desires boil over when William returns to the haunted House of Usher, thereby triggering a vengeful response on the part of Roderick's loony twin sister, Madeline (Suzan Hanson), who rises from the dead to strike down the sinners.

Also caught up in the folds of this gay Gothic horror tale were a physician (Jonathan Mack) and a servant (Nick Shelton), both of whom were ill-equipped to cope with the incestuous forces roiling within the House of Usher. It was all very eerie and unsettling, but Glass' score, with its repetitive motifs and ever-building intensity, had undeniable power and beauty. The cast's singers and actors did excellent work as well.

In March, Long Beach Opera will mount UNICAMENTE LA VERDAD: ONLY THE TRUTH, by the contemporary Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz, who has based her opera on the narco-ballad, "Contrabando y Traicion" (Smuggling and Betrayal). In May, the company will offer Stewart Copeland's dramatization of another Poe short-story, TELL-TALE HEART, and couple it with Nichael Gordon's VAN GOGH (a mini-opera based on the artist's letters).

The final production in LBO's "Borderline Season 2013" will be Ernest Bloch's 1906 version of MACBETH (June 15, 22, 23).

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