“The News” Review – Fulcrumpoint Makes The News

When we heard some of the music from The News, a reality opera by Jacob TV on WFMT one evening, my husband and I knew we had to see this production.  Its Midwest Premiere  (and second American engagement) was performed only one night only at the Park West, 332 Armitage, Chicago.  This was the perfect venue and the perfect vehicle for Fulcrumpoint.

We had never been to the Park West before but do hope to go again.  The show was early, so parking was easy.  We arrived in time and we were able to duck into a nearby wine bar, Vintage 338 (www.vintage338.com) for some of the best gazpacho ever.  Armed with a little to eat we could especially enjoy the wine in the cabaret atmosphere of Park West.

This 90-minute opera reflects the broad view of the news we see nightly on television, incorporating live speech, music, and video based on original news footage from around the world.  In 36 scenes, The News presents currents topics such as:  global warming, the credit crunch, artificial tears, Tahrir Square, and the hurricane approaching NYC.  Familiar faces included Silvio Berlusconi, Sarah Palin, President Obama, and former President Sarkozy while languages included Japanese, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Italian. 

The music also was multidimensional. Under Stephen Burns, the varied sounds of the Fulcrum Point New Music Project were exciting.  The beautiful operatic voices of Lori Cotler (alto/jazz vocalist) and Josefien Stoppelenburg (lyric soprano) were a beautiful addition in their roles as “news anchors.”  Unfortunately, there were a few moments when these voices were drowned out by other voices and music.

The combination of music with the remixing of the news clips, the color mix and rhythmic qualities and live “anchorwomen” was totally engrossing.  According to Stephen Burns, Founder & Artistic Director of Fulcrum Point New Music Project, “The News is a modern take on Gesammtkunstwerk, Wagner’s ideal combination of performing arts, including music, drama, décor, etc. into a kind of total theater piece.”

 The production was at once original, compelling and powerful.  At the same time, there were very humorous moments in the midst of conveying the sense that the world is falling apart. The second half was especially poignant and presented a broader point of view of the world than I have seen before.  In one scene, “White Flag,” Rob Serra, a US marine from Iraqi Veterans Against War, tells his horrific story which brought tears to our eyes.  A clip from a Charlie Rose interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on June 20, 2011 explored Rumsfeld’s memoir, Known and Unknown where the topic was water boarding at Guantanamo.  Another clip showed an Iraqi woman in Bagdad beginning her speech with the words: “I’d like to say something to the world..”

The performance was one of the best I have ever seen, meriting the standing ovation the audience gave at the conclusion.  My husband and I were lucky, but it is frustrating to know that neither my good friends that I have told about  it nor, you, my readers, can see this now.  With luck it will return. Watch for it!

 The News was created by the Dutch creative team of Jacob TV-concept, music and lyrics, Jan Bolten-videos, text animations, lighting, stage setting, Kristien Kerstens –video and Aike Dirkzwager – dramaturgy and the Fulcrum Point New Music Project including: Stephen Burns –conductor/music director, Lori Cotler-alto/”konnakol/ jazz vocalist, Josefien Stoppelenburg-lyric soprano and the orchestra.

More about Fulcrum point at: www.fulcrumpoint.org

And PARK WEST at: www.parkwestchicago.com

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