August 18, 2011

Daly the Diva

Growing up, we always watched Cagney and Lacey. As the glorious Tyne Daly pointed out in the Playbill article, she plays blue collar a lot. Thus, her transformation into the famous opera singer Maria Callas in this year's revival of Master Class on Broadway was even more astonishing.

Terrence McNally's play is set in Juilliard with Callas holding court at a voice master class. We the audience members are her students watching as other "students"---or victims as she calls them---come out and perform. She is supposed to give them instruction or advice. That is, if she even lets them finish OR start singing. Ms. Daly's Callas is a Diva with a Capital D. From the moment she makes her entrance, she has us spectators eating out of her hands.
Her Callas is, pardon the pun, callous yet extremely funny. What makes her even funnier is that she is blissfully unaware of the effect her tirades have on other people. Between harangues, she reflects on her life and we get insight as to why she's angry and bitter. She recites devastating monologues about her looks and weight, her opera victories, her rivals, her defeats, her tumultuous personal life (especially with Aristotle Onassis).
What's also interesting is how Maria as a teacher tried to instill in her hapless wards her way of not just singing, but acting. She would berate them to always look to the music, how everything they need is in the notes, that the composer pretty much tells them how to interpret the song. It was an intriguing glimpse into the mind of an artist.
True to form, the show ends with a dogmatic and provocative monologue about art.
This is Alexander Silber who played the sweet but diffident Sophie De Palma. Jeremy Cohen was Manny Weinstock, the reverential pianist. The other two students are Sierra Boggess' Sharon Graham and Garrett Sorenson's Anthony Candolino, a contrast between an initially terrorized soprano and a tenor undaunted by the ferocity of their teacher. Clinton Brandhagen played a thankfully clueless stagehand who was the subject of Ms. Callas' scorn for being oblivious to art and music.
If you want to see a masterful performance, don't miss the Divine Miss Daly as La Divina.
Master Class is currently playing at the Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre until 04 September.
"Never miss an opportunity to theatricalize."---Maria Callas in Master Class


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