Family Secrets: Kith and Kin is an opera consisting of produce, as it were, grown in North Carolina. The libretto is by seven esteemed southern writers, the music is by North Carolina born Daniel Thomas Davis, and the production and performance were realized at Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphy School in Raleigh by a cadre of superb talent mustered by North Carolina Opera and staring the shining light behind it all, the extraordinary soprano Andrea Edith Moore.
The seven nationally-acclaimed authors are Jeffery Beam, Allan Gurganus, Randall Kenan, Michael Malone, Frances Mayes, Lee Smith, and Daniel Wallace. They contributed evocative texts that moved me to recall memories I didn't know I had.
The music, composed by Davis, offers clever lyricism, dramatic accompaniment, and unification of all elements of the production. Davis is riding an outstanding career with commissions and projects keeping him on the run. The performing musicians were Andru Bemis, banjo, Ariadna Ilika, violin, Nathan Leyland, cello, Bo Newsome, oboe and English horn, and Danny Spiegel, piano, all conducted by Vincent Povázsay. Their sensitive and skilled performance enriched every minute of the staging.
Francesca Talenti was the director and stage designer. It was she who integrated music, text, scenery, and action into a coherent dramatic presentation, and it was superbly done.
Experienced actress Jane Holding was outstanding in the roles of Housekeeper and Neighbor.
The roles of Girl, Mother, and Daughter were sung by Moore, who continues to wow audiences with her powerful and flexible soprano voice and her acting ability, her dedication and drive, and her charm that enables such projects as this to be successful.
Family Secrets: Kith and Kin deals with sin and guilt and fear and forgiveness. There are some stunning moments, such as when the housekeeper vehemently delivers the line:
Jill is giggling – doesn't she know that this is a sin
They will both burn in Hell with their monster baby
Then the guilty sister sings of her awareness that her sister was not really there at the top of the stairs where she imagined her to be and saw her guilt.
When another character finally decides to explore a concealed hiding place, the instrumental scoring is powerfully ominous. But what was discovered is not revealed.
The ending sequence dealing with forgiveness gave Moore and Holding a duet opportunity: Moore singing in her rich soprano tones and Holding speaking in her generous contralto voice. It yielded a unique and ethereal effect.
Throughout the opera were moments that revealed the creative instincts and performance skill of those involved in this production. It was a pleasant and fruitful experience to hear these gentle revelations of the inner lives of kith and kin. In the words of Gurganus, "Everything the world does wrong, everything the world does best, is found right here (in our village). But only by the watchful – don't repeat this. but it's true: I'm also innocent, at least as innocent as you."
In the question and answer session after the opera, there were opportunities for colleagues to express their admiration and appreciation for Moore, who was not only the vocal star but also the inspiration for the idea and the guide who saw it through to full realization. Indeed the accolades were well-deserved.
The opera will be repeated in the same venue on Feb. 16. For details, see the sidebar.