I've always been curious about opera but never made it a point to attend one. That is, until some of my friends told me about The Poe Requiem, a production by the Fresco Opera Theatre based here in Madison. My conversations with singer & composer Clarisse Tobia regarding the pursuit of creative expression had left me wanting to hear more. Plus Edgar Allen Poe has been on my bookshelf since middle school, so when the stars aligned it was a no-brainer to attend.
I walked into this experience without any idea of what to expect. I was greeted by doormen dressed in red frock coats and white powdered wigs...like a vision from a 1700's palace. I was ushered to my seat by black-feathered ravens on stilted legs that glittered in the eerie blue and purple lights. They could've stepped right off the set of The Dark Crystal. There was video imagery on screen of swirling mist and paintings of the morphine-addicted tortured artist himself, along with the capillary-like pattern of a giant leafless oak tree projected onto the floor. A troupe of dancers evoked cobwebs blowing in the breeze, the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and the raven that witnessed it all. Add to that a full chorus, soloists, organs and an orchestral ensemble - all macabre to the max. I was already dazzled by the experience, and then Clarisse delivered a solo that sent shivers down my spine.
The shame is that it only plays for 2 nights. This show ought to run for at least two weeks to give more people a greater opportunity to see it. Like a fleeting meteor shower or an elusive eclipse, I consider myself very lucky to have been witness to this experience.
The Poe Requiem was held at the Madison Masonic Temple, which ticked another box off my 'interesting places to visit' list. The haunted temple tour following the breathtaking performance was an unexpected surprise. I know a little about Masonic symbolism, but now I'm inspired to research more after seeing the ceremonial rooms filled with hand-carved wooden throne-like chairs, altars, columns that represent a Sacred Gateway tied to ancient Egypt, etc. The space definitely had a certain vibe to it that I can only describe as esoteric, slightly unsettling, and utterly magnetic. I would absolutely love to be locked in here overnight and get acquainted with the resident poltergeists and ghosts...and watch the show one more time.
A girl can dream.