by Christina Klessig
Entering into the minimalistic Whitebox Art Center on Friday night was like stepping into a rehearsal space at Julliard, the only stage set an empty five seat park bench on risers. Seeing two donation boxes with small amounts of cash at the entrance raised some red flags about the quality of the production of Handel's Orlando I was about to see, but once the houselights went down, I knew this was going to be something special.
I was there for a preview of Handel’s 1733 opera Orlando, directed by R.B. Schlather. Schlather didn’t simply update the setting to modern times, he actively modernized the interpretations of Handel’s baroque lyrics to coincide with our modern day expectations of body language and communication. There was deep emotion in the acting, which allowed the strong vocal performances to wash over the space. Towards the end, the performance began to blur the lines between opera and performance art - perhaps not unexpected in a space that doubles as an art gallery. The orchestra could have used a few more rehearsals, but otherwise this was an intriguing reinterpretation of this nearly 300 year old masterpiece.
The final performance of Orlando at the Whitebox Art Center is tonight at 7pm. A limited number of rush tickets are still available; more info available online.