PHOTOS BY FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARABULLETIN.COM
Above left, Jill Gardner plays Countess Charlotte Malcolm and Buzz Tennent is Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm in Hawaii Opera Theatre's production of "A Little Night Music." Rosalind Elias, who began her career as an opera singer in 1954, plays Madame Armfeldt in the Stephen Sondheim musical.
Cascades of words
Although "A Little Night Music" is inspired by Ingmar Bergman's film "Smiles of a Summer Night" - which also begat Woody Allen's "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" - and the title is a deliberate mistranslation of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," the main thing to remember is that in Sweden this time of year, the sun never goes down. Night in midsummer Sweden is a rosy half-light between the farewell of sunset and the welcome of dawn.
‘A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC’
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Aug. 9; 4 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 10
Tickets: $20 to $75
Call: 596-7372 or visit hawaiiopera.org
A good time for reflection. For a guy who writes musicals, Stephen Sondheim is in love with words. Talk, talk, talk, and then the characters sing, sing, sing - cascades, torrents of words. Since "A Little Night Music" is virtually all in 3/4 waltz-time, and since the words are humorous, deft, witty, emotional and revealing, it's all rather dreamlike, and an ideal midsummer night's entertainment.
As long as it's not you who's doing the heavy lifting. "Opera, that's wall-to-wall singing," explains Rosalind Elias, who essays the pivotal character Madame Armfeldt in Hawaii Opera Theatre's edition of the Sondheim musical. "Sondheim, he's a musical style all his own. The songs keep flowing into dialogue, and when the songs start up, they're so full of words, and so much story. Sondheim is a mouthful!"
Elias has been singing opera since 1954, and her career parallels Stephen Sondheim's - they're roughly the same age - although Elias was feted early as one of the truly gorgeous opera divas, and Sondheim didn't get a substantial break until he wrote the lyrics to "West Side Story."
"It's been a great career," reminisces Elias. "It actually seems like I've been blessed, always getting the right thing at the right time, it seems. And here we are, when I've matured, doing an operetta in Hawaii, playing a woman, a character who's really had a life as well. It's a great role."
Elizabeth Taylor played the part in the film version, so you get that the part demands amused self-absorption, a degree of faded glamour, a recognition that time and gravity work against you. The best-known song is "Send In the Clowns."
That's fun for any seasoned performer, and Elias has been heating up opera stages for a half-century. Despite the long career, this is the first time she's played Hawaii.
"I've never been in Honolulu before. Can you believe that?" she marvels. "Of course, being from New York, when I go some place warm, it's Florida. But there's something about the atmosphere here. I have no aches or pains here!"
She's also pleased with HOT's atmosphere. Director "Henry Akina makes us all feel loved! I've played around the world, in many venues, and it's usually just business. Here in Hawaii, there's a real family feel to the production, a camaraderie you don't often see elsewhere."