Opera Las Vegas program both serious, satirical

The name’s Bach … P.D.Q. Bach.

Which is to the iconic composer what Austin Powers in "Goldmember" is to 007 in "Goldfinger."

Affectionate, satirical lunacy.

"It’s a tragic farce," says Marek Rachelski, music director for "Gone West," Opera Las Vegas’ maiden 2009 production this weekend at the Clark County Library Theater. "There’s a lot of silliness that goes on."

"Oedipus Tex." Yes, it lends Sophocles a Texas twang, as when the titular Tex cracks, "You may have heard of my brother, Rex." But the piece by P.D.Q. Bach — aka "Professor" Peter Schickele in the guise of Johann Sebastian’s goofy, fictional, 18th-century alter ego — is just the comedic flip side to the program’s first half, featuring Henry Mollicone’s one-act tragedy, the farce-free "Face on the Barroom Floor," starring soprano Alisa Thomason, tenor Steven Loss and baritone Christopher Reames.

"He writes in a very attractive style, and easily accessible from an audience standpoint," Rachelski says. "But it has some very distinctive challenges for the singers and instrumentalists." The latter would be accompaniment from the People’s Valley Chorus and the chamber ensemble, Musica Lumina. Selections from Aaron Copland’s opera "The Tender Land" and Mollicone’s "Gabriel’s Daughter" are sprinkled throughout the program.

"Barroom Floor," composed in 1973, was inspired by Hugh Antoine D’Arcy’s 1887 poem and Herndon Davis’ 1936 painting on the floor of the Teller House Bar in Central City, Colorado. A 25-minute "pocket opera," it’s a story-within-a-story about a love triangle, set in the present but framed by a tale of the old West, with an O Henry-style climax. "It’s not the stereotyped opera," says spokesman Hal West. "Everything is western-flavored, but operatic."

"Oedipus Tex" (subtitled "And Other Choral Calamities") gives the cowboy ethos a comic kick in the saddlebags. The oratorio, described on Schickele’s Web site as demonstrating "that the only two sure things in life are death and Texas" features such dignified ditties as "You Murdered Your Father," "Knock, Knock" and "How Many Psychiatrists?"

"I heard the program called ‘opera light,’ and I don’t think that’s quite accurate," Rachelski says. "There’s a great need for levity at this time in our country."

If P.D.Q. Bach can lampoon Sophocles, why not skewer Mike Meyers?

"Goldmember: The Opera," anyone?

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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