Fort Worth Opera’s double-pronged experiment—mixing a generous portion of the new with the old, and presenting both in a festival setting—is proving a surprising success. The most remarkable confirmation of that was this year’spresentation of Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata, which drew a Bohème-sized audience to the 2,056-seat bass hall on its opening night (May 26) and was the most satisfying production in a festival that also included Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers and two
seemingly surefire classics: Tosca and Le nozze di Figaro.Adamo’s own libretto, based loosely on Aristophanes’s comedy, eliminates the choruses, invents some new characters, changes some motivations, but retains the basic premise: the women of Athens and Sparta band together to deny sex to their men until they give up their long-running war. In Adamo’s hands the anti-war message isn’t preachy: it’s delivered with a wink and a nudge. He’s a gifted writer of comedy, and whenever the tone of the piece threatens to become serious, a good laugh generally intervenes; and Lysistrata’s smart-alecky tone is one of the work’s assets. When it turns a little sentimental, as it does occasionally, it’s less effective. The final scene, especially, could use some tweaking. Lysistrata is bawdy, for sure, and David Gately’s production got funnier the bawdier it became, while Richard Kagey’s cartoonish sets freely mixed ancient and modern themes (‘Occupy Athens’ marchers paraded in front of the Acropolis). The idiom is distinctly tonal, but the orchestration is colourful and effective and the vocal lines serve the libretto well, even if at the final curtain one might be hard-pressed to recall many musical specifics.
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