The end of the school year blooms with Yale concerts. For me, this year’s highlight is the one-act opera centered on, what else? Chocolate.
Julia Child and chocolate cake to be specific.
Bon Appetit! features music by Lee Hoiby and a tour de force performance by mezzo-soprano Leah Hawkins, pearls and all. Oh, and words by Julia herself.
In other words, we get a cooking lesson expanding on Julia’s natural mezzo voice. Can’t you just hear that pitch in your mind’s ear?
The opera captures Child’s natural charm and darling humor. As Hawkins literally whips up the batter for a French chocolate cake, she sings her warning, that we “don’t want to play croquet in the middle” of a particular step in the process.
She wonders if we have a self-cleaning kitchen like she does.
Mmmm, she sighs in her lustrous voice, showing us the batter. “Just as good if you eat it this way!”
She relishes a race where no matter what, she’s the winner: which will beat the egg whites best? Her mixmaster or her hands? Which, you are wondering? Only use your mixmaster if you’ll use the results right away.
Irreverently, Hawkins drops the pans on the counter “to settle everything” she sings. “It will puff up and sink down,” she demonstrates with hands, body, and voice.
My favorite moment was the blissful note she holds, enjoining us to make the cake “light like a soufflé.” Aaaaah.
This opera may have the best stage business ever, culminating in the moment when Hawkins pounds her knife into the cake and scoops out a delicate piece for us all to admire. What a tease.
In Julia’s inimitable words, “That’s all for today…Bon Appetit!”