Last night, my husband and I had the amazing good fortune (and foresight of planning on our cross-country road trip) to celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday at his masterpiece, Fallingwater. The brilliance of our planning is completely overshadowed, not only by the place, but by the shear genius of the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh in producing an opera about Mr. Wright, and staging it at Fallingwater, on the day of his birthday!
We gathered with about 80 others for hors d’oeuvres in the forest and terraces prior to the performance. We had access to the house itself, and I was even able to get some coveted interior shots of the place, albeit only on my iPhone.
Then we sat, with wine in hand, for the performance.
Louis Sullivan started the performance from the upstairs terrace, complaining about Frank Lloyd Wright, his student, who was stealing his thunder. Then Wright appeared from the woods, stones in hand, deep in thought as he worked out his next architectural design. When his “clients” arrived to survey the site, the chemistry between Wright and the wife was palpable. It came as no surprise when they were caught kissing on the terrace a few scenes later.
The orchestra sounded great, from under the covered terrace. During moments of heavy drinking and rage, I feared for the characters as they leaned too far over the edges and contemplated the creek below…
Overall the experience was amazing. Based on the true story of Wright’s ill-fated love affair, Shining Brow is an interesting opera full of elegant phrases (like “…in the prairie of my heart, my mouth is full of stones…”), although the contemporary composition is a bit too mono-toned for my taste. I prefer the curling melodies of the classics. But of course, flat and straight is what you need for an opera about Frank Lloyd Wright.
If you don’t know the truly tragic story about Mamah Cheney and Wright, I suggest you read the Wikipedia description at the very least. And if you haven’t been to Fallingwater – one word – GO!