Mezzo-soprano Elise Quagliata (left) and Atlanta Opera Studio Artist Bryn Holdsworth perform in the Atlanta Opera production of Jake Heggie’s “Out of Darkness: Two Remain.” CONTRIBUTED BY JEFF ROFFMAN
The recollected scenes make for devastating drama, beautifully performed by Kanyova, and also by Atlanta Opera Studio Artist Bryn Holdsworth, who plays the younger Krystyna in memories (the vocal combination of the two singers playing the same character at different ages I found particularly intriguing and effective, especially when they sang together).
In the second act, we meet the aging gay German Jew Gad Beck (Atlanta actor and Theatrical Outfit Artistic Director Tom Key), who is visited by the young ghost of Manfred Lewin (baritone Ben Edquist), his poet lover from when they were both teenagers. Though Beck has barely spoken about his memories of that time, the ghost’s appearance recalls for him the freedom of Weimar-era Berlin and the pain of persecution and loss that followed.
Theatrical Outfit Artistic Director Tom Key and baritone Ben Edquist perform in the Atlanta Opera production of Jake Heggie’s “Out of Darkness: Two Remain.” CONTRIBUTED BY JEFF ROFFMAN
Gene Scheer’s libretto is so effective and insightful the evening could potentially work as pure theater, with no music at all, but Heggie’s beautiful score gives the words and actions a haunting sense of meditative interiority: We move dreamily between past and present, between anger and regret and a sense of release, and the music effectively guides and underscores these transitions. The sound is often fittingly somber — the show is overarched by a recurring, lilting minor key melody, often sung a cappella — but there are actually a number of moods depicted. Some recollections have an intriguingly jazzy edge to them, and the appealing “Golden Years,” beautifully rendered by Edquist, in which Manfred recalls the naughty and glamorous life of Berlin nightlife in the ’20s and ’30s, wouldn’t sound at all out of place in a Broadway musical.
Scenic designer Christopher Dills’ set is simple but visually dense and adaptable; its several levels, entryways and pockets of space allow for action and memories to unfold in any number of places, a potential which Zvulun and choreographer John McFall utilize well throughout.
One of the most impressive things about Zvulun’s accomplishment here is the way he marshals the prodigious talents of so many Atlanta-based artists — such as the dancers or actor Tom Key in a primarily speaking role or McFall, former Atlanta Ballet artistic director, as choreographer — to collaborate on guiding the new work into its first full production. Overall, it’s nothing at all like what we might have seen from the company before Zvulun’s arrival, so the new production is extraordinary and exciting on a number of levels.
Our culture tends to place so much value on speaking out, speaking up, finding a voice (and these are indeed positive values), but we seldom consider the true emotional costs, challenges and risks of speaking up. When the subject is an experience as horrific as the Holocaust, “speaking up” isn’t as easy, or as easily redemptive, as all that, and one of the things that “Out of Darkness” touches on so beautifully and painfully is the difficult path both characters navigate in contemplating giving voice to their experiences. Key and Kanyova capture and convey that deep sense of existential confusion and anger that their characters experience.
“Out of Darkness” is by no means an easy evening, but it is necessary and timely: Its people, images and stories stay with you.
Atlanta Opera presents Jake Heggie’s “Out of Darkness: Two Remain”
7:30 p.m. April 12-15. $50. The Balzer Theater at Herren's, 84 Luckie St. NW, Atlanta. 404-881-8885, www.atlantaopera.org.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Exclusive look at Fox Theatre's new Marquee Club set to open May 2018 The grand opening of the Fox Theatre’s highly anticipated Marquee Club lounge and rooftop is finally set for May 17, 2018. The $10 million Marquee Club is the theatre's most significant expansion and biggest financial undertaking since its 1929 debut. It features 10,000 square feet of premium event space, including access to the club’s five bars, passed and displayed hors d’oeuvres, self-serve desserts and coffee throughout its ma