West Edge Opera was no longer allowed to use the abandoned train station in Oakland that has served as a performance space for the past two years, but General Director Mark Streshinsky is very happy with the new and very large space they’ve found for this year’s productions. Pacific Pipe, a former working factory, will be the home for their performances of Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas, Libby Larsen’s Frankenstein, and a work by a Mozart contemporary they’ve translated as The Chastity Tree.
There’s more information about the performances at the West Edge Opera website.
“Pacific Pipe is outrageous and awesome in a completely different way than the train station,” Streshinsky explains. “It’s an original building from the 1920s with add-ons. It is quite overwhelming. Every person that’s gone in there has just felt like, ‘Wow, it’s so huge.’ Pipes were made there, and it has this feeling… you can imagine it in full operation, and now we’re doing opera there.” The three selected for this season follow (roughly) the guidelines that he tries to follow in programming the festival. “We start with a basic framework of a very early piece, Mozart and earlier. We think of something 1990-ish or later. And then we think of something about maybe turn of the century. That’s kind of where we start.” The earliest piece, with a libretto by da Ponte, is Vicente Martín y Soler’s The Chastity Tree. “It’s a delightful romp… The piece is outrageous and wonderful and beautiful. The basic premise is Diana has created a tree because she’s concerned for her nymphs. Diana, the goddess of chastity. But every day the nymphs walk under the tree. And if they are pure, the tree lights up and sings beautiful music. But if the nymphs have transgressed, it pelts them with rotten fruit to death.” Hamlet is based on the Alexandre Dumas translation of the Shakespeare play, and one of the rare examples of operas from the bel canto era with a story that Streshinsky says isn’t silly. And their Frankenstein will take advantage of the many advances in multimedia technology that have taken place since its premiere in 1990. The monster will be played by Gary Morgan. “He’s a dancer that comes from a tradition in Oakland known as ‘Turf.’ It came out of hip-hop and voguing, and it’s an amazing artform in which there’s a lot of body contortion, a lot of taking body parts and isolating them.”