Combining a love of classic literature and amazing music—it’s not an easy task. I had my doubts when I scored free tickets to the final dress rehearsal for “Of Mice and Men” at the Long Center. Steinbeck and sopranos?! I thought skeptically. Didn’t seem to be a match made in heaven, especially since the novella deals so heavily with Lennie Small’s mental disability. I underestimated the Austin Opera—they skillfully and successfully conveyed all of the intricate themes of the book.
If you haven’t read “Of Mice and Men,” do so—right now. I’m not sure I would’ve enjoyed the opera if I hadn’t read the novella first—I definitely recommend reading, but don’t worry, you have plenty of time. The novella is called a novella for a reason—it’s super short (but packed with amazingness). However, as I type this, I’m reminded that I went to the opera with someone who had never read the novella—and he still enjoyed it thoroughly! Maybe the English teacher in me can’t help but push reading on people. I will say, if you haven’t read the novella, the opera could be a little too slow for you. It’s not an action-packed plot or a twisted romantic drama—it’s a character piece.
Corey Bix, who plays Lennie, is making his Austin Opera debut with “Of Mice and Men” and wow—what a debut! It’s not only his insane vocals that will impress you, but simply his presence on the stage. You can’t take your eyes off him as he struggles through life on the ranch; you find yourself rooting for him so relentlessly. That’s how you know Bix’s performance was outstanding—Lennie is a character who you shouldn’t be able to help but love.
The orchestra was phenomenal, the props, backdrops, and costumes were perfect, and they even used a real-life dog and puppy on stage—I loved that extra touch (although, if you know the story, that might not excite you too much). Also, lyrics appear on a screen above the stage, which is helpful if you’re like me, and not always fluent in opera. Every effort made by the composer, director, and cast did not go unnoticed—it was flawless.
Austin Opera is currently selling tickets to only two shows—January 28 and 31—so act soon!