December 05, 2005

Jonathan and Puppets

Coverage of Red's new show in the Akron Beacon Journal:

A new -- and different-- Amahl

Thursday and Saturday, Red will perform the production for puppets, vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra at Masonic Temple in Cleveland.


The whole point of Red is to shake orchestra concerts loose from their regular old formats. Sheffer, has reconceived his Amahl in a homeless shelter (``the equivalent of Biblical poverty'') peopled by life-sized puppets. In the update on Gian Carlo Menotti's 1950s children's opera, the young boy Amahl lies down on a cot in a church basement and dreams a contemporary parable.

As both the conductor and the stage director of Amahl, Sheffer is in the unusual position of controlling both aspects of the production. ``I love the idea of being able to direct and conduct. This gives me a chance to blend musical impulses and dramatic ones. When I'm in the theater, I think I know when the (music) director has had an effect on the staging,'' Sheffer said before Monday's rehearsal.

Four puppets for `Amahl,' how they work

The puppets that Basil Twist has created for Red's new Amahl are life-size, and then some. King Balthazar, dressed in an African-inspired gold-trimmed purple robe and matching cap, has an enormous head.

And to accentuate the fact that King Kaspar is deaf, this dignified figure, dressed in black tuxedo, red sash and many medals, has one oversized ear.

In a clever detail suggested by Jonathan Sheffer, Twist built stacking drawers into King Kaspar's chest. The king can pull them out when he offers to show young Amahl the treasures he is carrying.

Posted by Emily at December 5, 2005 01:51 PM