For those like myself who found “Doctor Atomic” an insufferably confused and convoluted enterprise, John Adams’ “A Flowering Tree” should be an effective antidote. Though its lacks the wit of a work such as “Nixon in China” or the gravitas of “Death of Klinghoffer, ” Adams’ adaptation of an Indian folktale based on a translation by Indian scholar, poet and longtime University of Chicago professor A. K. Ramanujan has charms of its own, even if it sometimes takes political correctness to absurdities by, for instance, setting chorales of a work set in India in Spanish. The story is a rather static one, dealing with a young woman (Natasha Jouhl) who has the ability to transform herself to a tree and the prince (Noah Stewart) who falls in love with her, which isn’t helped by the presence of a storyteller (Sanford Sylvan) who has to explain things, but the music, particularly in the transformation scenes, is anything but static. Drawing heavily from Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, Adams’ music conveys magic and transformation using compact Wagnerian orchestration and Adams’ own effective leitmotivs, reminding us, for instance, of how many moments of Wagner could be interpreted as “Minimalist,” especially the prologue to “Das Rheingold” and the repeated arpeggios that represent the Rhine River. Though this Chicago Opera Theater production is obviously one of meager means, but unlike say, last year’s “Bluebeard’s Castle,” never looks cheap, which is no small accomplishment in these lean times. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Harris Theater for Music & Dance, 205 E. Randolph, (312)334-7777. This production is now closed.