It's never easy to take a literary classic and turn it into a stage play, musical, film or opera. A few years back, the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center won a best new play award from the Denver Drama Critics for its charming production of Little Women. And while later productions, for fear of disturbing the feel of the tale, failed to cut some of the length from this potentially marketable creation, the integrity of Louisa May Alcott's original story still persisted. The same cannot be said for Central City Opera's production of Little Women.
Not content with the author's cherished character's, composer and libretticist Mark Adamo recreates the adventurous and independent Jo as a self-centered and mean-spirited snob. Whatever was he thinking? If this was an attempt to modernize, it fails because Jo has not been liberated by this adaptation, if fact, she has been made smaller, a prisoner of ego and jealousy. Alcott's Jo was already a modern woman, fiercely her own person, and her strong feelings for her family can hardly be considered anachronistic.
Adamo's score is even more revealing. While Jo's suitors, Laurie and Friedrich Bhaer are bestowed with melodic arias, Jo's moments are consistently dissonant, as a means, we suppose, to reveal her "psychological discordance." All this leads us to wonder whether this isn't just an exercise in misogyny rather than an attempt to immortalize what continues to be a loving and instructive portrait of a late 19th Century American family.
Central City Opera's production of Little Women runs in repertory with La Boheme and Gloriana through August 4th. 303-292-6700.