Staged in the parlor of the historic Franklin Inn Club, BY YOU THAT MADE ME, FRANKENSTEIN—a site-specific period piece inspired by the dark and stormy night that gave birth to Mary Shelley’s famous Gothick horror story—is another success in a growing catalogue of original world-premiere works by the dazzling Philadelphia Opera Collective. The English-language narrative opera is set in Geneva, Switzerland in the summer of 1816, when the eighteen-year-old Mary (portrayed by Kristy Joe Slough) and her libertine circle of Romantic poets and friends–Percy Bysshe Shelley (Joseph Cianciullo), Lord Byron (the deliciously taunting and seductive Brendan Norton), Jane Clairmont (Crystal Charles), and Dr. John Polidoro (William McGlone)—entertained themselves with drink, drugs, free love, and ghost stories, in accordance with Byron’s hedonistic belief that “The best of life is but intoxication.”
The compelling two-act opus, directed by Brenna Geffers (who also served as lead writer of the spoken and sung libretto), appeals to both long-term opera aficionados and new Fringe audiences by capturing the historic characters, events, and mood with passion and clarity. It is at once intimate and operatic, interweaving facts with fantasy and a salient message about the monster that lies within us. The expressive music by Josh Hartman and Reese Revak, performed on piano by Maestro Gabriel Rebolla, is a perfect vehicle for the resonant, mellifluous voices of soprano Kirsten C. Kunkle (as a female Dr. Frankenstein), tenor Michael A. Lienhard (as her monstrous but sympathetic creation), and the rest of the engaging ensemble in this opera-for-everyone. [Franklin Inn Club, 205 S. Camac St.] September 12-21, 2014; fringearts.com/by-you-that-made-me-frankenstein.