This summer’s offering, Carmen, is the opera most reminiscent of American pop music. Carmen – the title character – was undoubtedly the Nicki Manaj of her day. (Though I hope Nicki has a happier fate.) Bizet came up with brain-melting melodies – at least one of which – the world-famous "Habanera" – he stole, according to the introductory talk by conductor Michael Fennelly. (Bizet, who'd never been to Spain, thought it was a folk song, but it was written by Sebastian Yradier, a Basque composer.) All my Phoenician friends left the show elated, carrying their portable chairs lightly into the night.
Each festival includes a theatrical work. This year’s was Bleecker Street, a profound, embattled, tragic, dreamy, grief-stricken play written by a 23-year-old named Eric Grant. Nowadays, prodigies in theatre are rare, but Eric writes about a reality he knows: a non-heterosexual teenager in a world where Queer Eye is a hit TV show, marriage between two males is legal, yet gay kids are still teased, jeered, bullied – many to the point of suicide. And where a gunman can walk into a gay nightclub and murder scores of dancers, which is the subject of Bleecker Street.
Classic rock plays a large role in this friendship. "I can see us 40 years from now, sitting on a park bench, like old friends," Steve says to Zach, quoting the Simon & Garfunkel song, "Old Friends." (That's one of the moments where I wept.) The play's title comes from a rather obscure song by the same duo, on Wednesday Morning, 3 AM:
Voices leaking from a sad cafe
Smiling faces try to understand
I saw a shadow touch a shadow's hand
On Bleeker Street
The acting was uniformly compelling, which means the director, Philip Mansfield, found the gravitational center of the play.