Judgment of Midas premiered in Milwaukee last week, and I’m still buzzing. It was an incredible experience. Kevin Stalheim, who leads Present Music, and Jill Anna Polasek of Milwaukee Opera Theater, succeeded in making this wonderful production feel like an opera, even though it was “semi-staged.” Kamran Ince, the composer, conducted the Present Music ensemble, expanded to small orchestra size and including five Turkish musicians. The soloists lined up concert-style to sing, but each one created their characters in place: Franny and Theo, the contemporary couple visiting the ancient ruins of Sardis; the guide Melik/King Midas; and the Gods Apollo, Pan and Tmolus. Projected images and digital lighting on the Zelazo Center stage gave the performances a visual presence and operatic scale.
I felt the piece coming alive, and the audience being pulled in to it, as Kamran’s thrilling, high-octane music, the story and words, the beautiful singing and playing, and the visuals came together into a single whole. I’m so grateful to everyone who gave their best to this production. Both nights were captured on audio and video, and we are looking ahead, hoping Midas will continue to develop and be seen again.