"The Discord ALTAR" is an opera….modern, improvised and anarchic at times.
The set is raw, the setting present day LA, Skid Row, the characters in various stages of their life struggles, all having been drawn together by one man, the man who’s funeral they have just come from and who’s own private tribute they are gathered together to express.
This man, who lived with them on Skid Row, and who changed each of their lives by teaching them to sing, is the center of this touching and uplifting piece.
I admit I had no idea what to expect from this performance.
The Secret Rose Theatre is small, sparse and not necessarily the kind of venue you would expect to find opera, modern or not. But, as it turned out, it was the perfect place on this night, and for this heartbreaking and inspiring Libretto, created by Meghan Brown.
A soon as I sat in my seat, the magic of "The Discord ALTAR" began to weave its spell.
The set, a remarkable and quite beautiful arrangement of boxes, graphic paintings and found objects, forming the ‘Altar’ around which the action takes place, felt as sacred as church. Each object placed with intention and with love, more of them being added by the cast as the play unfolds before us. The story is set, each character completely realized, but the music, the direction, the tone of the piece varies with each performance. This is the improvised world the play inhabits, creating a wildness, and an edge to the voices and the performances that must in some way mimic the unpredictable nature of living on the streets.
The singers, or should I say, the actors - for they truly are quite brilliant actors that also just happen to be quite astonishing classical singers, so deeply embodied these struggling and diverse characters that I was transfixed and believed everything I saw.
To single out any of these extremely talented performers seems both unnecessary and impossible, they really are all that good.
I found myself forgetting that the story was being sung, however sublime the voices. The story, so powerfully told, whether spoken or sung, was, in the end, everything. And as an audience watching storytellers, regardless of the genre, isn’t that the best we can ever hope for?
This wonderful opera is the first production of Opera Works’ new Arts for Social Awareness Project. The script itself was adapted from interviews with actual people affected by or working within the homeless community, with the musical score improvised nightly by Ann Baltz on piano and Ray Salas on percussion.
Opera Works' own ethos, to train and empower performers to excel as individual artists and entrepreneurs, while raising consciousness about current social issues is perfectly reflected in the message of this work. Although the subject of homelessness is tough for all of us to tackle, let alone face and change, there is such joy within the tragedy and is is the joy that finally connects us all and reminds us that we are all the same, all flawed, all driven to extremes and all worth saving.
Please see "The Discord ALTAR" it is quite simply astonishing….
April 10-May 3, 2015, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm.
The Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601
Babatunde Akinboboye, Julia Aks, James Hayden, Anjelica McRae, Laura Parker, Vincent Robles, Alina Roitstein, Annie Sherman