nytheatre.com review by Mark DeFrancis
September 14, 2008
Calling is a new minimalist opera written and directed by Wickham Boyle in collaboration with composer Douglas Geers which recalls the tragedy of 9/11 through the eyes of a downtown New York City family. The piece touches on memorable events such as the tragic morning and the lengthy relief effort, but these are mainly background to the stories of the survivors who were left to cope with the fear and confusion that followed 9/11. Combining several simple but believable stories with inspired choreography and hybrid electronic orchestration makes Calling a powerful and majestic commemoration of an American tragedy.
The story follows the journey of a caring Mother, played by soprano Nicole Tori, and her family. Though they avoid tragedy on the fateful day, the family is stricken with the loss of their peace of mind, something which so many Americans can recall. Finding themselves in a jumbled and confused world, they embark, with the help of each other, down a path toward clarity and harmony with their much changed world. Roland Burks brings his powerful voice to the role of Tori's husband, complementing the soprano perfectly. Tori herself adapts well to the small venue and brings an arsenal of tones expertly to bear on this piece, culminating in a stirring finale. I would also like give credit to youngsters Madison Pappas, Cecilia Gault, and Jonah Goldfarb, who hold their own in a complex, dissonant opera. In particular, I enjoyed Tori and Pappas's mother-daughter duet, my favorite scene of the work.
Hiroya Miura conducts an interesting six-piece orchestra which features violin, cello, clarinet, piano, percussion, and someone who looks like he is playing Nintendo Wii in the background. This is, in fact, composer Douglas Geers, who is performing the electronic portions of the score on his laptop. The music parallels the journey of the characters, beginning in a solitary violin cue before diving into the frenetic confusion of the tragedy itself. The composition finds silence in the attack, courage in the stoic efforts of workers and steel, peace in the quiet moments of the aftermath, and hope through the resolution of harmony. In lieu of set, the music functions as the environment, outside of the audience's sight and the characters' control. Edisa Weeks's choreography also plays a role in this illusion and should be noted for its clear, iconic statements.
Calling looks at 9/11 in a refreshing way; turning away from the Towers and looking squarely in the eyes of the victims, while acknowledging that victims come in many forms. It is, ultimately, a work with a good heart, a great score, and a message of hope formed from the ashes of tragedy.