Theater Latte Da is presenting Terrence McNally's Master Class at MacPhail Center for the Arts' Antonello Hall. If you're considering attending this play about the later years of legendary soprano Maria Callas, here are eight things to expect.
1. Expect to hear Maria Callas — but not Sally Wingert — sing. Though Callas is heard in recordings, her character — played by Sally Wingert — does not sing. Her students, however — played by Kira Lace Hawkins, Kelsey Stark D'Emilio, and Benjamin Dutcher — do sing, and quite well.
2. Expect a beautiful venue. If you haven't been to the stunning recital hall at MacPhail, find an opportunity to do so. Designed by architect James Dayton, the space opened in 2008; it's an apt venue for this production.
3. Expect to bone up on your Callas history. The program has a two-page timeline of Callas's life; I found myself consulting it multiple times.
4. Expect to be curious about who "Ari" is. For the uninitiated: the "Ari" Callas repeatedly mentions is Aristotle Onassis, the Greek magnate who had an affair with Callas until Onassis broke it off to marry Jacqueline Kennedy. ("There [was] just a natural curiosity," explained Onassis about the circumstances under which he and Callas hooked up. "After all, we were the most famous Greeks alive in the world.")
5. Expect Ivey buzz for Wingert, who excels in this showcase role that's been played by Tyne Daly, Patti LuPone, and Faye Dunaway. The Ivey Awards, though, could hardly honor Wingert any more than they already have; at last month's ceremony, Wingert was honored for her performances in four (!) different roles last year.
6. Expect some sweet 70s duds. The play is inspired by master classes Callas taught at Juilliard in the early 70s, and costume designer Willene Mangham has fun recreating the era — especially with the colorful costume worn by Hawkins.
7. Expect to reach for some opera afterwards. The three selections performed in Master Class are Amina's sleepwalking aria from Bellini's La sonnambula, Lady Macbeth's aria "Vieni! t'affretta" from Verdi's Macbeth, and Mario Cavaradossi's aria in the first act of Puccini's Tosca.
8. Expect to argue about the script. Master Class won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Play, but some think it hasn't aged well: "Master Class is not, by even a generous reckoning, a very good play, though it can be an entertaining one," wrote Ben Brantley recently in the New York Times. "Mr. McNally (whose earlier Lisbon Traviata, which took a more indirect look at Callas, is a very good play) is an opera buff who here mixed a passionate fan's knowledge of myth, gossip and music into one pulpy, Broadway-ripe package."
Master Class plays through Nov. 9. Among the scheduled post-show discussions is an Oct. 23 conversation with Classical MPR's Julie Amacher. At 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 16, listen as Wingert, Hawkins, and director Peter Rothstein join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about Master Class and perform selections from the show.