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Ecce Ensemble Fuses Musical And Literary Tradition — And Comedy — In 'Switch'

Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and Mikhail Smigelski in "Switch" (Courtesy Jonathan Dana)closemore
Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and Mikhail Smigelski in "Switch" (Courtesy Jonathan Dana)

Like a well-made quilt that cleverly hides its intricate stitching, “Switch,” an operatic theater presentation on view now at Le Laboratoire in Cambridge, elegantly blends disparate references, both musical and literary.
Composed and written by John Aylward, and performed by the fearlessly virtuosic Ecce Ensemble, “Switch” is the story of a hapless playwright laboring to bring a work to fruition. He’s aided on one hand by Anne, his thrilling muse who appears to him at night and populates his mind with exhaustive ideas. And on the other hand, he has Molly, his perplexed love interest who can’t figure out what the hell he’s doing with his time. The fact that Molly and Anne are performed by the same singer — the galvanizing soprano Amanda DeBoer Bartlett — not only adds to the breathless quality of “Switch,” but increases the dramatic tension and layers the action.
Along the way, Aylward contextualizes works from Joseph Campbell, Plato, Italo Calvino, Euripides, Thomas Mann, D.H. Lawrence and Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, with music of his own blending in with Mozart and Machaut. There may have been others. In the end, it becomes all Aylward: a tour-de-force presentation with genuine integrity and lots of comedy as well.

Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and Mikhail Smigelski (Courtesy Jonathan Dana)
Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and Mikhail Smigelski (Courtesy Jonathan Dana)
The cast of "Switch." (Courtesy Jonathan Dana)
The cast of "Switch." (Courtesy Jonathan Dana)
Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and Mikhail Smigelski (Courtesy Jonathan Dana)
Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and Mikhail Smigelski (Courtesy Jonathan Dana)

Keith Powers, former music critic at the Boston Herald, now freelances for a number of newspapers and magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @PowersKeith.

Keith Powers Music Critic, The ARTery
Keith Powers is a music critic for The ARTery.

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