PROVING Mazzoli's Place in the New Opera Scene at the Miller in New York

10.01.18
Christopher Rountree
Broadway World

Missy Mazzoli had me with BREAKING THE WAVES, her opera written with librettist Royce Vavrek (based on the Lars von Trier film) at Opera Philadelphia and PROTOTYPE 2017. With PROVING UP--same librettist and with a production also conceived by James Darrah, commissioned by the Washington National Opera, Opera Omaha and the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, where it had its New York debut last week--she proved she's a force to be reckoned with.

Whether she's bringing dissonance to contrast with her melodic take on an 1862 song or conjuring bitter ghosts with otherworldly sounds, she is a marvel and the International Contemporary Ensemble under conductor Christopher Rountree showed the score off brilliantly.

While the piece lasts under 90 minutes and it has no chorus (except for those ghosts), this is hardly what you'd call a small-scale work, even though the creators call it a chamber opera. It has big themes and leaves a big impression, even if it's one of hopelessness and misery, without a smile (let alone laugh) to be found. Compared to PROVING UP, even WOZZECK or LULU seem uplifting.

As if anyone in the US with a cellphone, television or newspaper needs any further proof, PROVING UP doesn't just show us the dark side of the American Dream but the black one, with no hope and little love, the characters hanging on by their nails. The score is as scorching as the earth found by the homesteaders whose tale it tells.
 
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