UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Back in time, with Philip Glass and Galileo opera

Photo from “Galileo Galilei” performance“Last night I dreamt that I knelt on the moon.” Those are Galileo’s words late in life, and one of the first he sings in the UNCG’s stunning opera production, “Galileo Galilei.”

What Galileo, who has invented the first telescope, observes and explains – and dreams about – is counter to Church doctrine. This conflict is foreshadowed: Galileo values the birds in the garden as a part of nature, to be appreciated and observed. The Cardinal (who will become Pope) takes another tack: they are inconvenient to him, disturbing his sleep and interrupting him, so he has them destroyed.

The symbolism is apparent. And it’s made richer as we trace Galileo’s life back to his earliest years.

In the last scene of the opera – and one of the first memories of his life – the tiny child watches his father’s opera. In a dreamlike sequence, we see mythology and the constellations – an early “explanation” of why the Orion constellation travels across the sky and is invisible 12 hours each day.

Of course, Galileo’s writings would lead us away from mythology and toward a path of scientific understanding of the stars and planets.

The UNCG opera production’s sea of stars and the shafts of natural light …. the creative and symbolic use of the staircase revolving counterclockwise again and again …. the wonderful costumes. The use of red and other primary colors. The magnificent voices. The acting and the blocking and the pacing. The orchestra conducted by Kevin Geraldi.

After the final performance, Natalie Rose Havens, a first-year master’s student in voice performance, reflected on the experience. “Once we were deep in rehearsals, and I was able to watch my other colleagues and their personal interpretations of the work, I began to fall in love with the piece because my eyes were opened to the sensitivity Phillip Glass had towards the story behind the music” she said.

“I think I can speak for all of us in saying we treated this piece with utmost respect, delicacy and dedication, and I believe it transferred to the audience. The entire process from start to finish was a remarkable lesson, in the greatest sense.”

The Philip Glass opera was a fitting end to the yearlong “The Globe and the Cosmos” series. It was a historic artistic event for our university.

With artistic dignitaries such as former state poet laureate Fred Chappell and former state Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle in the audience – and with the opera directed by the president of the national Opera Association David Holley – it was a shining occasion for the performing arts at UNCG.

See a glowing review by CVNC: Online Arts Journal of North Carolina.
See another glowing review by Opera Lively online publication.

By Mike Harris