The Pittsburgh Opera's production of "Grapes of Wrath" is soon upon us, and I will be writing about it much more next week. But there are a few ways to get acquainted with it ahead of time.
First is an "Opera Up Close" event 12:45 p.m. this Saturday (Nov. 8) at the Pittsburgh Opera's building (2425 Liberty Ave. in the Strip District), with composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Michael Korie discussing and performing parts of the opera. It is free.
There also is a recording of the first version of "Grapes" out on a small label called PS Classics. It is generally quite good, although the version you will hear in Pittsburgh is substantially different as Gordon has revised the opera. Interestingly, the label "celebrat[es] the heritage of Broadway and popular song. It's a perfect summation of how Gordon's work (and his output in general), blurs the rather artificial lines between opera and music theater, at least how they have existed in new composition over the last 25 years or so. As Gordon told me, "Grapes" is "a melange of American vernacular," says Gordon. "It runs the gamut from traditional opera to blues and Appalachian music."
Lastly, "great care" is being taken by the Pittsburgh Opera to make the breastfeeding scene at the end as tasteful and "beatific" as possible, says Beth Parker, the Opera Lady. The Rosasharn. Danielle Pastin, "will be wearing a prosthetic breast made by a theater person at CMU." The photo on right is from Minnesota Opera, without the prosthetic. Either way, talk about a moving visual.