Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812

14 Reasons I Love Dave Malloy's Opera based on War and Peace.
Phillipa Soo as Natasha in NATASHA PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812, Photo By Chad Batka
  1. You get perogies and vodka.

  2. Dave uses bass clarinet, english horn, and gut rumbling club music all in the same piece.

  3. One scene inside of the opera is a hilarious parody of an opera.

  4. A bunch of the actors, and almost all of the musicians, are also composers.

  5. At one point two female singers in a tense situation sing the lyric “constraaaaaaained” a half step away from each other, and it is beautiful.

  6. One of the actors passed me a tiny folded paper during the show that had “you are hawt” scrawled on it. (Data suggests this was part of the show, and not an impulsive appraisal of my hawtness).

  7. Dave's melodies pour from the piece so effortlessly. I waited for something to be repetitive or predictable but each musical moment is an ingenious transformation and/or departure from the previous.

  8. The opening number is a cumulative song

  9. Mimi Lien created a magical Russian Cabaret.

  10. I'm incredibly impressed that Dave could tell such a complicated story using no spoken dialogue, without the exposition ever feeling forced. This makes me hopeful about the potential of song to tell big stories in an authentic and light-hearted way. It cleverly triangulates musical theater and operatic tropes so it can make use of them, without ever being subsumed by them.

  11. Every one of the actors approach singing differently. I love this. I like shows that have a few classically trained singers and a bunch of singers that are using their voices with folk, blues, rock, and experimental sensibilities. The sonic patchwork is what makes the piece feel current and authentic. Our culture is so heterogeneous that when a large group of performers stand up and sing according to a single musical orthodoxy, the product can feel institutional, dated or even corporate. This is the experience I have, though not always an unpleasant one, at many Broadway shows and big budget operas. Comet on the other hand feels homemade. It may not feel as homemade in its current commercial incarnation than it did at Ars Nova, but that leads to my next point.

  12. I love seeing a commercial production of a truly downtown piece or performance. Rachel Chavkin and Dave have kept the core of the work intact even though there are now many more costumes and chandeliers. To quote the brilliant Taylor Mac, “The avant-garde IS commercial!” It is inspiring to see commercial backing for a work as quirky, honest and courageous as Comet.

  13. The waitstaff are all actually Russian (or have convincing accents), and I think this actually adds a lot to the experience.

  14. It's in a damn TENT!

    Go see for yourself.