When sitting down to watch a rendition of a famous Greek tragedy such as “Medea”, surprises are typically unheard of. The audience knows the plot before the entertainment even begins. Medea, the titular character of the opera, is supposed to be a wicked woman who murders her Jason’s wife-to-be and slaughters her own children just to spite him.
However, when watching the production of the classic opera by the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), the first shock came upon viewing the stage. With the set itself a bright pink and the background neon green, it looked as if I had been transported to the interior of an alien spaceship.
While CIM’s production did contain the essential plot elements, their operatic rendition had this tragedian wondering if she were watching the correct play for most of Act I. As if the play being transformed into an opera and performed in Italian was not disorienting enough, the storyline was also quite different from the original.
Instead of the opera beginning with Medea, it began with Glauce, Jason’s bride. The Chorus, an integral part of any Greek tragedy, wasn’t even on Medea’s side, as is tradition. They were against her the whole time. And, worst of all, Medea didn’t appear until halfway through the first act.
I spent so much energy trying to decide whether there had been a last minute script change that by the time I did realize I was in the right place, I was extremely worn out. After finally believing I was in the right place, my eyelids started to sag as I worked hard to keep myself awake.
Overall, the singing was alright, the acting could’ve used some help, and the costumes had me questioning the budget. At one point I found myself praying that Jason’s facial expression would change just once during his performance.
Then, Medea showed up. The actress had me awestruck. Not only was her voice heavenly, but her acting was actually believable. Never have I been so enthralled in a performance that I couldn’t understand. At one point she even had me questioning whether the character would actually go through with the heinous act of murdering her children.
Her supporting character, the Nurse, definitely deserves mention as well. Her beautiful voice was music to my ears. Also, her acting was just as great as Medea’s. Without her support I don’t think Medea’s role would have been nearly as convincing.
Medea was not the only highlight of this opera, as the orchestra did a fantastic job as well. While the lead actresses’ skills caught my attention, the emotion being conveyed through the music kept me watching.
While the performance as a whole was not as I had hoped, CIM’s rendition of Luigi Cherubini’s “Medea” was definitely worth my time. Even though it had its ups and downs, the performances of Medea and the Nurse, as well as the orchestra, had me raving about the opera for days. This performance was not the typical opera that has the entire audience falling asleep. It was pretty spectacular.
Production: Cherubini’s “Medea”
Location: Kulas Hall, CIM
Date: Nov. 8-11, 2017