Balisongs in Live Theater

Yes, they do show up in live theater, plays, even operas from time to time. Here's a list of reported sightings. If you see a balisong in a live performance, please e-mail me. Be sure to include the title of the work, what company performed it, where it was performed, a general description of when and how the balisong appeared, an evaluation of the manipulation technique, and an overall evaluation of the show.


Giuseppe Verdi's 


By the Portland Opera
Nov 11, 2000

Keller Auditorium,

Portland, Oregon

Verdi's classic Opera based on Shakespeare's classic play: the story of one hero's fall from grace.

At the end of the second act, the villain, Iago, is left alone on the stage to explain his twisted philosophy of life to the audience. As he speaks, he produces a balisong from his pocket, opens it with a simple double-flip-out opening and contemplates the knife, even slashes his own hand with it to show the depths of his despair. The knife also appears a couple of times in act three with that same double-flip-out opening.

The singing was great. They had some great talent this time. The music, though, was weak. While there were a few notable exceptions, in places where the music should have been setting the emotion of the scene, it was barely audible.

The balisong is part of the Portland Opera's effort to add "sex appeal", if you will, a new "edge" if you'll pardon the pun, to Otello. Apparently, they don't think Verdi and Shakespeare appeal to today's audiences.

The sets, costumes, props, etc., for a major musical, play, opera, etc., are very expensive. The complete package for a professionally-presented opera costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes over a million dollars. Obviously, most performance companies are not able to afford to create their own sets, costumes, etc. So, they rent a package from another company that was able to afford it. This enables the weaker company to afford professional equipment and the rental income helps the stronger company finance new productions. The Portland Opera has, in the past, usually rented packages for their productions.

For this production of Otello, though, the Portland Opera has taken the bold, and expensive, step of creating their own sets, costumes, and props. It's an all-new production of Otello. It's an all new interpretation of Otello. Obviously, they are now looking to rent this package out to other opera companies. It's a huge step for them, an attempt to break into a new strata in the opera world.

My review: two thumbs down. Oh, the balisong was a special treat for me, it's true. But everything else looked like a hodge-podge. Let's face it: Otello is a period-piece; it's set in the late 15th century in Cyprus. Yet Portland Opera has dressed Otello's soldiers and guards in tight black leather with spikes and given them red faces and red hair. They look like punk rockers with swords. Meanwhile, Desdemona clashes temporally in elaborate period dresses and Otello, in what looks like a white leisure suit with gold trim, looks like he just stepped out of a 1970s disco movie. And the set, with a bright 1960's color-scheme and swirling designs reflected in giant moving mirrors, looks more like something from the old TV show Laugh In than a 15th century Greek Palace.