Four Russians are…

There’s an old joke about how one Russian is an anarchist, two Russians are a chess game, three Russians are a revolution, and four, well, the traditional completion is that four Russians are the Budapest String Quartet. But Terry Teachout, librettist for Danse Russe, the Paul Moravec “vaudville” opera that premiered tonight in Philadelphia, put a different spin on the joke in his libretto. The setup is the same, but the payoff is the cast of the opera – Nijinsky, Stravinsky, Monteux and Diaghilev, the forces behind the creation of The Rite of Spring. (Yes, Monteux was French, but in this context he was an honorary Russian.) Moravec and Teachout succeeded in their goal of creating a fun piece, with much of the fun in the music with its nods to musicals and sly references to motifs from The Rite. The first note in the opera is the famous first high bassoon note from The Rite – but then it continues in some other direction. At another point the equally famous stomping chord from The Rite dissolves into a music hall waltz – it takes clever craft to do that as well as Moravec did. Center City Opera Theater, with Orchestra 2001 accompanying, did well by the piece, with Jason Switzer as Diaghilev and Christopher Lorge as Stravinsky providing the strongest singing. Bravo to CCOT for their commitment to new work.

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