The Fat Lady Sings
Opera has gone street, and folks, it ain't pretty. Composer John Adams and director Peter Sellars (who brought you The Death of Klinghoffer) and librettist/Berkeley professor June Jordan teamed up to create I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, an "earthquake romance" set in contemporary L.A. Sellars seemed genuinely nervous presenting the show last week, which was still in previews and needed some tuning up before it officially opens Thurs, May 11, at the Zellerbach Playhouse. But the problems revolved around the script, not the staging: The stereotyped characters -- Young Black Gangsta, Dumb White Cop, Poor Latina Mother -- might be easily recognizable to the middle-aged audience that shelled out big bucks for tickets, but they are too simplistic to allow any real confrontation of urban issues. To their credit, though, the producers hired local jazzbos like Dred Scott, Will Bernard and Scott Amendola to play the score (which is a cross between Duke Ellington and Beth Custer) and graffiti artists Nerv, Big 5, Miner, Toonz and others to illustrate each song on banners that descend from the rafters. If this opera signals a trend, we fear what's on the horizon: Maybe a ballet about the riots?
By Mike Rowell, Paul Tullis, Sia Michel