Capital Fringe Review: ‘The City of God’ – A New Opera’ by Cyle Durkee

Here goes. First, I’m not going to mention any names because these are college kids and they will learn better (and I’d like for them to get a chance to do so without the albatross of a bad review around their necks).

The Story: the Waco Massacre. A touchy subject, to be sure. Nowhere is it remembered so negatively as DC (except maybe Waco). As far as I could tell the story followed the phone conversations between David Koresh’s right hand man and the FBI interrogator. And for those of you who don’t know about the Branch Davidian/David Koresh/Waco massacre….it ends badly.

Reasons Not to See This Show: Ok…we started 20 minutes late due to technical difficulties. This would not normally be an issue, but it was an hour and a half show that ran over anyway so we were there for two hours. Had this been an enjoyable experience that would have been acceptable, but, alas it was not.

I couldn’t understand anything that happened in the first 20 minutes because music was far too loud. Unfortunately the conductor (who was also an actor in the show {and the only person who visited the sound booth [in order to turn on the track that would play continuously the entire time]}) wasn’t able to do anything about it, because he was on stage. So lesson one…get a board op.

The overture gave us all the themes in the show (sung at the same time {so again there is no way to understand what is being said}) and none of them were terribly interesting. The lyrics felt as though someone had tried to hammer them into a melodic line without thinking about how humans actually speak and without taking any artistic license (which would have allowed some actual lyricism to creep into the piece).

The boy playing David Koresh swanned about the stage revelling in his own voice without managing to put any real emotion into his songs. He attempted to look menacing at several points, but he missed that mark by a long shot. And any research into cult leaders will show that without fail they are charismatic in the extreme, and this child only managed to portray rampant egomania at best.

The entire time we lived in disonance, which wears heavily on the ear and the brain without a break (an intermission would have been nice {if only as a way to run screaming from the venue [without interrupting the performance, of course]}). And by the time we were done I was praying that one of the cap guns (which…and I don’t know if you know this…make an incredibly underwhelming and anti-climactic sound {so…there’s another choice one might make differently next time}) might be made real and pointed my way so as to put me out of my misery.

Reasons To See This Show: There is one. If you are willing to sit through all that. The Baritone of the piece sounds, for most of the show, like he can barely hit the notes he’s singing. In the end you realize that that’s because he is a belter (and belters have a rough time using their upper registers quietly). And towards the end of the show he gives us the only piece of real acting that takes place on the stage and a moment of real revelation when he unveils a beautiful and powerful voice.

Ultimately this piece should be laid to rest and never awoken again.


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