Presented by New Repertory Theatre
A play with music by Terrence McNally
Directed by Antonio Ocampo-Guzman
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Watertown) Amelia Broome doesn’t use a Greek accent in her portrayal as international treasure and opera superstar, Maria Callas. The audience doesn’t have the luxury of knowing why Broome chose not to use an accent. Broome’s performance is effective without one so the reasons don’t matter.
Master Class is a grand opportunity for non-Classical singers (plebes) to experience the horror and joy that is operatic study. It is a (relatively) cheap vocal coaching for its length and history wrapped in a convenient package. The dialogue is only slightly dramatized for the benefit of the audience. The majority of Callas’ lessons and helpful hints are comments that any voice teacher could and would give her student. The majority of these same lessons and hints are conveyed in a similar manner as well.
Broome’s Callas is a dichotomy of open nerves and tough as nails chutzpah. She wears Callas like a fine fur; she is glamorous as La Divina and embraces Callas’ range and perpetual gravitas. Her students for the evening are pulverized by her changeability and impatient demands. She emphasizes their youth yet turns on them when they make a mistake based on their inexperience. It is impossible to tell her professional artifice from personal baggage. In comparison, the actors playing the students might as well be set dressings.
One doesn’t need to love or even enjoy opera to appreciate the efforts of Master Class but it helps to have an understanding of the art form. There are inside jokes and references that plebian audience members will not understand. For this same reason, audience members may not understand the grandiose behaviors of Callas. It can be difficult to tell where the professional artifice begins and where the woman ends. Perhaps the beauty of Callas was that there was no delineation at all.