Composer Philip Thompson (PhD 2002) likes to describe The Final Battle for Love as, “one of the world’s finest baroque-metal professional wrestling operas,” and he got no argument from enthusiastic performers and audience members during the work’s Chicago premiere in January of 2017. Thompson Street Opera Company (no relation to the composer) produced The Final Battle for Love in a four-show run at the Raven Theatre with a cast comprising some of the Chicago’s most talented and adventurous young artists.
Based on author Tony Earley’s short story “Charlotte,” the opera portrays three intertwined downward spirals — the city of Charlotte, NC's loss of its professional wrestling league, the in-ring battle between Bob Noxious and Lord Poetry for the affections of Darling Donnis, and the real-life longing of the Narrator for his girlfriend to use the words "I love you."
TSOC Executive Director Claire DiVizio produced the world premiere of Final Battle in June 2016 as part of the company’s summer festival in Louisville. When she decided to permanently relocate the company to Chicago, DiVizio was determined to introduce TSOC to its new home with Thompson’s idiosyncratic opera. Discussing the production on Doing the Work, DiVizio explained that she was drawn to Final Battle because of its,
“…really intense and evocative balance of being very depressing and ridiculously fun… Nothing that happens is anything that you expect to see in an opera!”
For his part, Thompson is effusive of about the experience of seeing his work brought to life on the stage.
“The best part is seeing what the artists bring to it, how they interact with the story and the score. They all immersed themselves in their characters; no one was tentative in any way. We even had some audience members dress up as members of the Lord Poetry Fan Club, which was hilarious. It’s a show that very much invites audience participation and cosplay, so the fact that people got that immediately was really fun.”
Congratulations to Philip Thompson on a successful run of The Final Battle for Love. We hope the show comes to Pittsburgh soon!