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Expat super critiques Dayton Opera premiere

The Dayton Opera production of Little Women in April took me by surprise. I am in what I suppose is a very small minority of people who have never read the book, nor seen any of the film treatments of the Louisa May Alcott novel. As a result, my only knowledge of the characters and plot came from an old episode of Friends, and a brief lecture at the local library (where my main interest was the possibility of sucking up to whoever showed up from the Dayton Opera as the guest presenter).
So I knew a sister died (it is, after all, an opera), and that many of the relationships were strained. Thus, I did not expect the large number of humorous moments, nor did I expect to finally experience an opera that actually seemed relevant to my personal situation. As much as I enjoy listening to operas such as Nabucco and Simon Boccenegra, it is difficult for me to relate to a crazed king with a power-hungry illegitimate daughter, or to a more benign ruler with yet another illegitimate daughter.
Little Women, however, was driven by a more universal concept – the reality that “things change.”  If the changes in our lives cannot be controlled as much as we would like, it is at least advisable to recognize the inevitability of change, to be open to the new possibilities, and to be willing to make suitable adjustments and adaptations.  From a personal perspective, that makes me feel better about the changes I made in the past year.
Being somewhat musically challenged, I am not really qualified to review an actual production (I’m not sure if some of the professional critics are much better), but a critique is what I was asked to prepare.  From an operatic perspective, Little Women was very well produced, as all of us would expect from our favorite director, Sandy Bernhard.  As always, Sandy was able to bring out detailed character and scene elements, which also resulted in the many mood-lightening moments in an otherwise potentially depressing story.
I anticipated a less than melodic musical evening from this very modern opera, but was again surprised at the pleasing nature of most of the music. And (as has been my observation so far with the Dayton Opera), all the principals were young, energetic, and blessed with wonderful voices.  The sisters included Jennifer Rivera (Jo), Julia Bentley (Meg), Mary Elizabeth Southworth (Beth) and Deborah Selig (Amy).  Ms. Rivera was particularly impressive, especially given the amount of time she was required to sing.  Jo was in almost every scene during the 2 1⁄2 hour performance.
The set was simply but effectively designed, with an entire wall of the house used as a back drop, and multiple levels in front that served as a garden, main rooms, and attic. Windows that dropped in during the second act created the separate geographical areas from which the scattered family members could correspond during the letter scene.  The orchestra (the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra) was led by its regular conductor, Neal Gittleman, so the music from the pit was tight and cohesive.
The only noticeable flaw was the absence of supers.  As hard as I tried, however, I was not able to spot any scenes where a super could have added anything useful to the production, even when props were being moved about on stage.  I also found myself wishing that ice cream was available during intermission (as it is in Cincinnati), but that seems to be on my mind in most situations now.
From a personal perspective, I am now fairly well settled in the condo, and I am ready to take advantage of the spring weather that finally arrived.  I was looking forward to all the trees, shrubs and flowers in bloom, as well as getting out to explore the area on my bike (I think I have managed to get myself back to an acceptable level of exercise tolerance). I have also found a bike group through one of the senior centers that goes out on weekly rides, so that should be a safe way to get back into riding.
As expected, I miss a lot about the Bay area, and I am looking forward to at least a couple trips back later this year, probably in conjunction with the opera season. Stay well, and be sure to let me know if your travel plans take you unexpectedly into southern Ohio.

-- Bruce McNaughton