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The Marriage of Figaro at KC’s Lyric Opera

It’s an unexpectedly pleasant thing that I have come to expect good things from Kansas City’s Lyric Opera. Rarely have I felt like this company has delivered the best operatic performances, but it seldom rates as the worst either.

This weekend I was lucky enough to be taken to see the latest production of this opera by my wife and son for a birthday present (amazingly, Figaro has come on or near my birthday many years now). I don’t think I’ve properly thanked them for this gift, but I very much appreciate it and had a great time.

My favorite part of the Lyric’s production this year was the return to a traditional setting but with a spectacular set design that suggested the change in aristocracy occurring at the time while still delivering on a class-stratified society complete with the trappings of a legacy of what we now call old money. The co-production with Opera Philadelphia, San Diego Opera and Palm Beach Opera truly delivered in this respect.

 

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An excellent effort! But, how does one say … ?

Unfortunately, the performance, while uniformly good, failed to achieve greatness at any point. On the ride home, we all agreed that it was a perplexing combination of all members of the cast ‘delivering’ but still missing the mark. I personally believe that Figaro is one of the more laugh-out-loud funny operas you can see. But where the comedy of Cheribino’s  near-capture and incredible escape and coverup should have brought down the house, I think I merely smiled.

 

Figaro is written for show-stealing performances. In its original production – in contrast to the portrayal in Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, there were so many encores in its premier showings that Emporer Joseph insisted that these be limited due to the already long running time of the performance. Cheribino, a soprano en travesti, is almost uniformly the most beloved character in the Opera delivering two perfect arias, Non so più cosa son and Voi che sapete che cosa è amor voicing his struggle to keep up with his wildly raging hormones. Samantha Gossard gave a lovely performance that was well done, but oddly unextraordinary. 

 

Bartolo and Marcellina are two other characters who almost uniformly steal the show for their comedic performances. In last evening’s performance, the two were delightful, but also failed to win the night. One exception to all the ‘merely solid’ performances was the scene in which it is revealed that Figaro is Rafaello, the long-lost illegitimate son of Bartolo and Marcellina. Amazingly, it wasn’t the two older players who made the scene work, but the Count who brought everything together in his whole-hearted display of despair in ever figuring out what the hell was going on around him. In fact, I would say that it was Baritone Edward Parks’ Count Almaviva who rose above all others to make the night a success.

Overall, I’d say the Lyric’s Figaro was a musical success surrounded by beautiful sets, but inhabited by mundane performances.

ps – bring back the chair.

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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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A Farewell to Teaching?

Possibly.keep4

I’m taking time away from teaching – at least for the Fall Semester –  to pursue new opportunities closer to Kansas City. (to which we recently moved house).

Teaching has been something enjoyable that I always wanted to explore, and when we moved from Philadelphia to Paola, Kansas in 2009, a terrific opportunity presented itself. Over the past several years I’ve taught:

  • General Biology
    • My bread and butter course. The more I taught it, the more I liked it and felt good about the story arc I had with it
    • First half of semester: The Cell and its workings
    • Second half: Reproduction, Genetics, and Cancer
  • Microbiology
    • I always thought that I disliked this class, but I think I enjoyed it, I just never felt great about pacing and felt like I was doing the helminths a disservice.
    • I approached this class for a molecular angle through the survey of life, then from an immunologist’s perspective to finish off
    • One of my favorite elements of this class was following an epidemiology sketch that put my students in charge of running a good analysis and containment of outbreak. I would love to include more about John Snow and the origins of epidemiology if I could
  • Medical Terminology
    • This class was a bust. I used it every day just to crank up for Patho, but it’s hard to generate a narrative about what is essentially a semester long vocabulary list
    • I think I would have liked this if I ever got a good handle on how to make it interesting; I love language, and etymology, but how do you fill an hour and a half with it?
  • Population Genetics
    • This was the smallest, most undefined course I’ve taught. We covered a number of topics including:
      • making relationship maps from DNA sequences
      • exploring allelic frequencies
      • looking at survival strategies

      This was a lot of fun and probably the most low-pressure class I’ve ever taught. It was more like a graduate seminar.

  • Pathophysiology
    • This is the core class that my nursing students needed.
    • I was leery of teaching it because it is not where my background was strongest, but it is interesting and I found myself spending hours filling in background for myself.I would be willing to bet that after a few more semesters it would be my favorite class to teach.

The big question now is: ‘What next?’

If anyone knows anyone who would hire an Immunologist / Molecular Biologist / Educator  / With interest in developing coding skills, please point them in my direction.

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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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