This week, Jared Bowen brings us the opera “Norma,” which is being presented online through Boston Lyric Opera and WCRB. Plus, an update from the Boston Theater Marathon and a review of “It Started As A Joke,” a new documentary about comedian Eugene Mirman and his long-running comedy festival.
“Norma,” audio from the final dress rehearsal is streaming online in partnership with 99.5 WCRB through May 13
Boston Lyric Opera’s “Norma” was scheduled to open on March 13, before all performances were cancelled due to the novel coronavirus. Fortunately, the opera company was able to record their final dress rehearsal in partnership with 99.5 WCRB to bring “Norma” to audiences nationwide via an audio stream. Soprano Elena Stikhina makes her title-role debut in this rarely-staged opera by Vincenzo Bellini about a Druid priestess caught in a dangerous love triangle with the general of an opposing army and her young protégé.
“You have to have a singer in mind who you believe can conquer this role,” says Boston Lyric Opera’s General and Artistic Director Esther Nelson. “Not only do you have to sing the notes, but you have to relax into them in such a way that the coloratura seems completely at ease and natural… And for it to sound easy is what's complicated.”
“Boston Theater Marathon XXII: Special Zoom Edition,” presented through May 17 every day starting at 12 PM
The Boston Theater Marathon is an annual event benefitting the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund which offers funds to theater artists in need especially now during the pandemic crisis. While Coronavirus concerns have prevented the event from happening in person, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre has come up with an inventive way to ensure the goes on: online performances. “Boston Theater Marathon XXII: Special Zoom Edition” features ten-minute plays performed every day at noon via Zoom. Audiences can go to the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre website for links to each session.
“Everyone wants to do what they love,” says Kate Snodgrass, Artistic Director of both Boston Playwrights Theatre and Boston Theater Marathon. “We can all band together, audiences included. It’s necessary now.”
“It Started As A Joke,” available to stream on April 3
The Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival brought laughs and a sense of community to up-and-coming comedians in Brooklyn for a decade. Now, the documentary “It Started As A Joke” chronicles how Mirman and his comedy cohorts began and fueled the annual comedy festival which disbanded in 2017. Both humorous and heartfelt, the film weaves together sets from big-name comedians like Kristen Schaal, Kumail Nanjiani, Jim Gaffigan and more with the stark, off-stage reality of Mirman and his wife, Katie Westfall-Tharp contending with her failing health.
“The film succeeds in making you feel in and of the festival—circling around a cadre of comedians for whom the joke truly is holy ground,” says Jared. “There’s an earnestness and depth here. One even more deeply revealed as we watch Mirman and his wife balance their life built around comedy with her terminal cancer diagnosis.”
What local and national arts stories would you like to hear Jared review? Tell him about it on Facebook or Twitter!