The unpainted concrete staircase to Redrum at Fort Fringe may not convey the import of grand opera, but don’t let the modest context fool you — Unmanned Stagecraft is presenting a polished, ambitious work of new opera at Capital Fringe 2013.
The two-woman team of soprano Courtney Kalbacker and composer/pianist Katarzyna Brochocka deploys deft vocals, intelligent acting, and a nuanced score to explore the isolation of a new bride.
Lights up on The Young Wife. The title character is confined to a boxy room with a Chinese rug and muslin screen. It’s 1890s Poland, and we don’t expect the diary of a new bride to be full of happy surprises. But Brochocka and Kalbacker use lighthearted melodrama to find a surprising amount of humor in the heroine Margaret’s predicament. Trapped in her lonely new house, the young wife becomes short-sighted and delusional.
Kalbacker’s acting is broad and satirical at times, but always empathetic. Moments of indulgent melodrama allows us to laugh at Margaret’s mania, but her sincerity wins our compassion. Margaret’s obsessive grudges and short-sighted fantasies begin to seem justified–when someone can only escape their house to buy gloves or visit her husband’s acquaintances, how could she not come unhinged?
The Young Wife
by Katarzyna Brochocka
at Fort Fringe – Redrum
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Brochocka’s music embodies the eclecticism of contemporary art music with references from Rachmaninov to Cowell. The score establishes the atmosphere with a brooding late-Romantic prelude, then incorporates modern influence to create humor and pathos for a 21st-century audience. In a breathtaking musical moment, Brochocka conveys the heroine’s darkest moment by spreading her hands in a crash of descending tone clusters. Courtney Kalbacker’s singing is crisp and focused as The Young Wife, finding a perfect balance between storytelling and sonic expression.
The Young Wife is an arresting new opera that examines its heroine’s world with compassion and cheek. An hour with Brochocka and Kalbacker at Fort Fringe is an hour well-spent.