This season of West Edge Opera takes a trip into the criminal underworld of London, the actual Underworld, and the dramatic depths of Dogma cinema. General director Mark Streshinsky says the three works are Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, Gluck’s Orfeo & Euridice, and Missy Mazzoli’s 2016 adaptation of the Lars Von Trier film Breaking the Waves. The location for this year’s festival is the Bridge Yard in Oakland, near the Bay Bridge toll plaza.
There’s more information about the festival at the West Edge Opera website.
The first show to open, tomorrow night, is Threepenny Opera, directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer (who has directed recent West Edge productions of Lulu and Quartett). “Threepenny is about horrible, horrible people,” Streshinsky says. “It’s all about surprising contradictions. Mack the Knife is this elegant, erudite person, but he’s a horrible murderer and rapist. And you see that throughout the piece. And the music of course is extremely jazzy, it’s of the 20s, it’s fun, it’s horrifying, it’s all of the above.” On Sunday afternoon, Orfeo & Euridice opens, with mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz as Orfeo, rather than a counter-tenor. “I wanted to do a different kind of Orfeo. And when I realized that I was doing one where all three principal singers were women, I thought, why don’t we do this piece totally with women: directing, conducting, designing?” Director KJ Dahlaw has shaped the work into a gender nonbinary retelling of the myth. “It feels like any kind of production you would see,” says Streshinsky. “We’re not doing anything in your face outrageous. It’s beautiful. I mean, it’s just beautiful. So I think it’s a really interesting successful production with a queer feel to it.” The third work is the adaptation of Breaking the Waves, which he’ll be directing himself. “The production was written with the film in mind, it really mirrors what happens in the film… I also think that Missy and [librettist] Royce [Vavrek] hit on something very special. Royce has taken a film with very few words, and written words that make sense for the drama and for what the characters are thinking. And Missy has taken the music and connected it in a dramatic way that I see in very few new pieces. There are incredible moments of just spine-tingling unbelievability in the music, and that’s why I wanted to do it. When I saw it in New York, I knew right away that it’s a piece I really needed to do.”