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Opera Company's Balcony surprises with outrageousness

THE BALCONY

World premiere of an opera by

Robert DiDomenica, based on the play by

Jean Genet.

Opera Company of Boston,

Conducted and Directed by

Sarah Caldwell.

The Opera House, June 14 & 17.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

OPERAGOERS WITH MEMORIES of Sarah Caldwell's Madama Butterfly and Magic Flute earlier this year may have been surprised by the outrageousness of her production of DiDomenica's The Balcony, with which the Opera Company of Boston's season ended. The Balcony, based on the play by Jean Genet, is set in a brothel. While a bloody revolution goes on outside, we focus on the activities inside.

Madame Irma's establishment is set up

as a "house of illusions," in which cli-

ents can act out a variety of identities.

We start with a Bishop, his prostitute

acting the role of a penitent. Next we

hear from a Judge (like the Bishop at-

tired in suitably outrageous costume)

with a prostitute-thief. There's also an

Executioner on hand, who periodically

whips the "thief," while the Judge crawls on his stomach begging the thief to confess. Instead, she holds out a foot and says, "Not yet! Lick! Lick! Lick first!" There are erotic overtones to everything.

Mignon Dunn took the role of Irma, the Madame of the house. Her acting projected a strong personality -- poised and in control -- and her singing was effective, too. Carmen, sung by Susan Larson, was quite seductive. I liked the stiff formal

stance of Jerome Kilty as the Court En-

voy. All of the cast contributed to a feel-

ing of sleaziness and a growing sense of

the surreal as the outside world intrud-

ed inside, and the two began to mix.

The music had its impressive mo-

ments and was not without humor;

there was little original or memorable about it overall, however, and its role seemed to be as a background to the action, rather than propelling it along. It is not clear that the operatic version of Genet's work is an improvement over the original play, even if it does make for an evening's unusual entertainment.