The American premiere of Jonathan Dove’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, presented by the Minnesota Opera, returns the classic tale to its dark origin. Based on the 19th century children’s story by Carlo Collodi, the opera follows the trials of Pinocchio on his way to becoming a real boy. Although Dove’s music is not particularly memorable, the relative familiarity of the story and the fact that the opera is in English make Pinocchio a good introduction to an art form many have never experienced.
|the adventures of pinocchio, an opera by jonathan dove. presented by the minnesota opera through march 8 at the ordway center for the performing arts, 345 washington st., st. paul. for tickets and information, see mnopera.org.|
On his journey, Pinocchio repeatedly finds himself in precarious and bleak positions brought about by his bad, stubborn behavior. Each time promising to be a “good boy,” the wooden puppet must overcome numerous trials and his own laziness before he is eventually rewarded.
As the title character, Adriana Zabala sings with intense innocence and joy, projecting life and intensity through all the makeup and beyond Pinocchio’s growing nose. Hardly leaving the stage, Zabala captures the sympathy and attention of the audience throughout the tall tale.
Still, it’s the fantastical cast of characters surrounding Pinocchio that truly bring this production to life. Maureen O’Flynn is wonderful as Pinocchio’s guide, the Blue Fairy. She is at once compassionate, truthful and encouraging. In his adventures, Pinocchio also meets a Fire Eater, sinisterly played by Ben Wagner and a Fox and Cat (Randall Scotting and Javier Abreu) who slyly try to steal Pinocchio’s money. As Pinocchio’s maker, Geppetto, Andrew Wilkowske grounds the fantasy with his protective sincerity.
Fans of the Disney movie will be surprised to find the familiar Jiminy Cricket character missing. In his place, is the marvelous Rebecca Bottone as the Cricket—who is crushed, as in the original story, by a Pinocchio who doesn’t care to be told what to do. Bottone invigorates each scene she is in with passion and whimsy. Equally charming is Cindy Sadler as the Snail. These great characters are further complemented by the delightfully detailed and colorful costumes designed by Francis O’Connor. The set, also designed by O’Connor, is remarkable. The scenery is constantly moving and evolving, from simple forests to brightly complex carnivals. Particularly noteworthy is the inspired moment when a sea of waves consumes Pinocchio and transforms into the belly of a whale.
This strong production of The Adventures of Pinocchio offers something for everyone from seasoned operagoers to first-timers.
Rebecca Mitchell (email@example.com) is a graduate of the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. She lives in Uptown Minneapolis and is currently working in public relations.