A review by Janos Gereben is now up at the San Francisco Classical Voice website. A couple of excerpts:
David Scott Marley’s The Manga Flute, a new English adaptation in Japanese comic style, is bold, outlandish, delectable entertainment. Add a wonderful cast, with some major vocal/stage performances, and there is a must-see Flute in the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater.
Among Marley’s many “innovations,” perhaps the best is his substitution of three young-soprano raccoons for the Three Boys, another puzzlement in the original. The raccoons don’t just float in and out — they are essential parts of the story, playful and destructive one minute, wise and problem-solving the other ….
The premiere of The Manga Flute is this afternoon at 3:00 pm. The theater will be very full — as of yesterday morning the orchestra section was full except for a handful of singles around the edges, but there were still seats available in the balcony.
The show looked great at the dress rehearsal on Friday. Megan Willis’s art is glorious and vibrant, and the costumes play beautifully against her backdrops. The prologue, a manga sequence created by Megan and beautifully assembled by Jeremy Knight, is terrific — you don’t want to miss the overture.
The cast was terrific, despite some dialogue flubs and nerves. Eugene is a hoot as Papageno. The Three Ladies were stronger and funnier in the opening scene than I’ve seen them before. All of act one feels like it is working beautifully all the way through. Act two felt like it might be five minutes or so too long. Caroline, the stage director, Jonathan, the musical director, and I talked Friday about the possibility of cutting a few minutes out at the dress rehearsal to see how it went, but Caroline decided it was wiser not to, and while I was open to the experiment, I don’t mind at all not making it after all — it’s easy to make a poor decision when you haven’t played the show before a real audience. Seeing how the show works for an audience may make clear exactly what it would be best to trim (if not for this production, then for the next), or could reveal that some other adjustment than trimming is what’s needed, or even that the show works fine as it is and we’ve just gotten to know the show too well to see how it will play.
And of course making changes is a burden on the memories of the performers and makes it that much harder to be acting and singing at their best. Given that the potential improvement to the script is somewhat minor, it may well be wiser to let it go for this production and make a note of the change for use in the next production, should there be one.
I don’t have much time today for working on the Listener puzzle, as I’ve got to finish laying out the libretto for Manga Flute so I have printed copies for sale on Sunday, and then there’s the final dress rehearsal tonight. But I took the puzzle (“O Gather Twelve”) with me on a break from work, and in five minutes had solved one clue and figured out from its answer what the theme of the puzzle is. So it doesn’t look like it’ll be a tough one this week.
That’s good for me, as I may not have much time for it till after the show Sunday, and I try to get my entry in Monday’s mail if I can so it has a decent chance of reaching England by the deadline.
Sunday morning: I started on the puzzle again last night, after I picked up the printed librettos for The Manga Flute, and I’d finished all but 29 Down by bedtime; this morning I saw what I was overlooking and finished it. Now to get ready for the show.
We all seem to be born with an instinctive hunger for an understandable view of the world.
The reality is that the universe is complicated beyond our fathoming and we don’t know very much about anything, and that’s scary. So out of the infinitely complicated raw data of our existence, we distill stories about the world that seem to make things understandable and make us feel less small and helpless and stupid.
Some of us have very simple stories that are a very poor fit for the universe, and some of us have very complicated stories that are a better fit, but I feel pretty sure that if we could perceive the grand scheme of things in its entirely, all these stories we have would be clearly seen as massively pathetic approximations of reality, and the difference between my worldview and the worldview of the most narrow-minded fundamentalist would from that cosmic viewpoint be seen as one of degree only, and an incredibly trivial one at that.
As we get older, though, some of us do get better at facing up to the fact that we really are small and helpless and stupid, and accepting that and learning to make the most of our lives anyway, and at realizing that the stories we make up in our heads are nothing more than that. And others of us seem to get more and more frightened and cling more and more to their stories.