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Reflections on New York Festival of Song’s “Harlem Renaissance” Concert: Ferguson, Staten Island and What the Songs Teach

December 19, 2014

The enduring power of the Harlem Renaissance songs comes from their truth telling and historical testimony. Their accessibility and quality of invitation, their universality of human experiences of love, family, hope and loss, and their indomitability all make us adore these songs, and forget that they were initially the products of a devalued and segregated community. [more]

New York Festival of Song: “Harlem Renaissance”

December 18, 2014

The Merkin Concert Hall of the Kaufman Music Center was packed on a recent cold December evening; the audience, happily anticipating two hours of fabulous music, was not disappointed. Five musicians – pianists Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, soprano Julia Bullock, tenor Darius de Haas and baritone James Martin – presented 24 carefully chosen pieces of music from the Harlem Renaissance in a concert of marvelous music-making. The singers inhabited their songs so completely that their singing was not about interpretation, but identity. The pianists were equal partners in the music, not mere accompanists. The audience applause, together with their Ohhs and Ahhs and slowly expelled breaths of marveling gratitude, created an atmosphere of receptivity that greeted and thanked the musicians before and after every song. [more]

The Asphalt Christmas

December 9, 2014

Director Lawrence Lesher and cast have hit the ground running Off-Broadway this Christmas season with the first revival of Todd Michael's The Asphalt Christmas. Theatre Row's Lion Theatre awaits those daring and looking for a Christmas story less caramel coated this year with an audacious play, both shocking and entertaining, as The Exorcist comes to St. Celestine's and their annual Christmas pageant. [more]

American Classical Orchestra and Chorus: Mass in B Minor

November 22, 2014

One of the strengths of this performance was in fact the clarity with which the many elements of Bach's music could be heard: without any compromise to tempo and without favoring any theme, instrument or voice over any other, Bach's music was unpacked. Because of the period instruments – and the skill of the musicians – even the most densely monumental passages, including the final movements, were powerful not because they were monolithic but because they were revelatory. Subtleties were not lost but illuminated. [more]

New York Pops: “By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra”

November 17, 2014

The New York Pops are the perfect antidote for those who suspect orchestral music to be dull or tedious. Proving again that celebrity performers are not needed to fill performance venues, Steven Reineke and his orchestra brought Carnegie Hall to life with their second installment in what is shaping into a rather exciting season. With adoring regard By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra truly had two stars, the orchestra itself and the music of seven time-honored composers. [more]

Chelsea Opera: The Face on the Barroom Floor & Emperor Norton

November 15, 2014

Since its composition and premiere in 1978, "The Face on the Barroom Floor" has been a familiar piece in the repertoire of small American and European opera companies for good reason: it is an accessible, well-conceived and lovely work. "Emperor Norton," written just four years later, is even stronger than The Face: it is more substantive musically, artistically and intellectually. This performance was "Emperor Norton"'s New York premiere. [more]

Disgraced

November 3, 2014

That such a devastating scramble of lives can happen in as handsome a setting as John Lee Beatty, magic set designer, manages to evoke, heightens the irony of what takes place there. The rest of the superb production is of equal caliber: Jennifer Von Mayrhauser's so right costuming, Kenneth Posner's so apt lighting, Jill BC Cu Boff's sound. But is this who we are? Where do we go from here? You don't want to miss Disgraced. How are you going to know what the title means? [more]

Sichuan Opera Theater of Chengdu: Raging Waves in the Sea of Desire

November 1, 2014

Acclaimed playwright Xiu Fen – one of China's most influential contemporary women writers – takes Eugene O'Neill's setting and opening plot elements, transforming Puritan New England into a small Chinese village, and focuses on the cruel, miserly old man, his new, very young and beautiful wife, and the young son who enters into an adulterous affair with his father's bride. O'Neill himself, writing stunningly innovative plays in the early twentieth century, looked to ancient Greek tragedies for his inspiration and to tragedy's archetypal figures. [more]

Voices of the Tarantate

October 28, 2014

Choosing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month as the time to premiere her Voices of the Tarantate, internationally acclaimed Italian singer and dancer Alessandra Belloni led her dance troupe, Daughters of Cybele, with additional dancers and performers, in a remarkable performance whose purpose was to examine the annihilating violence of domestic sexual abuse, to identify the rituals of song, dance and folk traditions that can heal the pain, and to celebrate rebirth, wholeness and sanctifying joy. [more]

Gotham Chamber Opera: Alexandre bis & Comedy on the Bridge

October 26, 2014

Since 2001, Gotham Chamber Opera has specialized in the production of major operas – well known, not known, new, traditional, experimental – and has developed a reputation for intelligence and a consistently high level of artistic integrity. This pair of Martinu comic operas, sung by an enthusiastic young cast performing on a gorgeously set stage, preserves Gotham Chamber Opera's fine reputation. [more]

Parthenia Viol Consort presents “For Ye Violls”

October 17, 2014

English baroque court music is steeped in contradictions. It is both intimate and public; it is conventional and playful; it is topical and occasional on the one hand and non-specifically accessible on the other. Lawes inherited these basic contradictions together with the demanding formal features of traditional musical genres. Within these constraints, he was so daringly inventive that artistic freedom is ultimately more his signature than genre or time period. [more]

Rock of Ages

September 28, 2014

In a large, energetic cast, Amy Spanger, Mitchell Jarvis and Wesley Taylor stand out. I have to confess never to have heard a louder finale. No wonder there's a surge in hot looking, fashionable hearing aids for the Boomer set. They've earned them. [more]

Gertrude: The Cry

August 1, 2014

The PTP/NYC company are directed to carry on adeptly, fervently, with considerable aplomb in Mark Evanchos' monumental setting, amid some of the best and lavish costume changes – by Danielle Nieves --ever seen Off-Broadway, including Gertrude's, most of the time, that is. [more]

Pentecost

July 28, 2014

Director Cheryl Faraone knows that to keep the ideas going it is vital to have her characters be seen as human as possible so that we are not confronted with stereotypes and agit-prop, so that we become invested, begin to put our own values on the line. I particularly liked Jonathan Tindle, Alex Draper, Nina Silver, Lawrence Nathanson and Matthew Ball. A unique, priceless artifact, a creation of the finest in the human psyche, precious to the world, versus a gypsy baby, a gypsy mother, a Bosnian, a Kurd, a Palestinian Kuwaiti, an Azeri, a Mozambican, an Afghan, a Ukrainian, a Russian, how can we decide? [more]

Enter at Forest Lawn

July 27, 2014

Author Roberts plays Jack, the megalomaniacal producer/writer of a TV hit about a charming, witty, womanizing uncle who runs off the rails regularly. [more]

The Qualification of Douglas Evans

July 25, 2014

Presenting himself thus, in the character of Douglas Evans, with such vigorous, non-stop awfulness, takes courage as well as rampant ego and a chilling comment on his, the actor/playwright's own life, which might well have been written and delivered with an ironic god-awful humor and given the audience something to care about but Ahonen sticks to his guns. [more]

When We Were Young and Unafraid

June 30, 2014

Yes, it's TV soap trap. Yes, it's really good movie. And yes, it's some of the best theater, because it's the purest entertainment, storytelling, the hardest and the easiest thing to do, all in one. People are endlessly fascinating. All you need is Sarah Treem to let you in. [more]

Power Plays

June 16, 2014

The obvious initial reaction without taking into context their mission is that the plays deal with or lend power in some way, together or separately to the characters, to the audience. That is, of course, the primary goal, usually. Not, however, in this case. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival

June 11, 2014

two interactive multimedia installation pieces by electroacoustic composer and kinetic sculptor, Gary DiBenedetto. Together, Fifteen Words a Minute and The Little Woman were presented under the title Tools of Exploited Women, a mini-exhibit in the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (June 2-8, 2014). [more]

Waking in New York

June 8, 2014

The three sopranos, Compassion, Freedom I and Freedom II, whether singing alone or in various combinations, functioned as the voices of Ginsberg's muses, embodying individual threads of Ginsberg's philosophical preoccupations and convictions. [more]

Gotham Chamber Opera: The Raven

June 5, 2014

The understanding of music as an exploration of the shifting relationship of sound and silence, of creation and emptiness echoes Poe's purposes in The Raven: the story of a love lost and never to be recovered is also an exploration of constantly shifting experiences of discovery and loss, hope and despair, communion and isolation, life and death. [more]

The Diorama

June 3, 2014

A diorama presents an obvious simulacrum of life at some period. The closest thing here is a simulacrum of a simulacrum. With embellishments by authors Jennifer Brown Stone and David S. Stone that took over whatever concept they had, presumably something to do with when a loony tune becomes a flat out loon and how to tell the difference. This is dangerous territory for experienced authors. The authors have rushed in. [more]

The Collegiate Chorale: David Lang’s battle hymns

May 26, 2014

David Lang's forty-five minute long piece is divided into five movements, all a cappella, with the exception of the fourth movement in which a snare drum is played throughout. Three of the five movements the first, third and fifth use Stephen Foster (1826-1864) song texts; the text of the second movement is Lang's adaptation of Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou's letter to his wife, a now famous document that encapsulates the ways in which the war shredded domestic lives; the text of the fourth movement is Lincoln's core statement about both identity and citizenship, As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. [more]

Mary Poppins

May 26, 2014

Director Richard Stafford thus has more opportunity to zip Mary Poppins about in the air at the WBT, much to the delight of an audience of thrilled children and their handlers. He also keeps his show moving as briskly as possible with clever use of cast members whisking about the ingenious settings by Steve Loftus. Derek Lockwood, costume designer, keeps them even busier in a wild array of constant changes. [more]

R. Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses

May 22, 2014

The performance was superb both for its innate musical excellence a first rate piece of music was given a first rate presentation and for the explanation of the work's difficult, extended history in predominantly white concert venues. [more]

Playing with Grown Ups

May 12, 2014

Then you begin to see the chasm Joanna feels hating the child that took her from the job she loved and how in the world do we mend that? Then you begin to see that Robert's self-worth is built on shards of something that took off in the wrong direction. Then you begin to see with the young eyes of Stella and wonder what she's going to make of her future and if she's alone in her clear eyed-ness? And Jake? He's insulated himself. Don't we all. [more]

The Cecelia Chorus of New York with Orchestra

May 10, 2014

Mark Shapiro, music director and conductor of The Cecilia Chorus, explained in the program notes that the evening would present an exploratory voyage through the spiritual cosmos, searching out the individual's place in the universe. [more]

Cabaret

May 4, 2014

A huge, new production of a huge, ever now hit, Alan Cumming, Michelle Williams, Linda Emond and Danny Burstein shine. [more]

The Canticum Novum Singers Johann Sebastian Bach, St. Matthew Passion, BWV

April 29, 2014

As always, the bright, clear acoustics of St. Jean Baptiste at Lexington Avenue and 76th Street served the music and the musicians well. The church's highly ornamented, shiny blue, white and gold American Baroque interior seemed at first at odds with Bach's Passion story. Throughout the sanctuary, however, major statues were shrouded head to toe in the purple cloths of Lent; it was as if unknown and unnamed witnesses mourned in the midst of glitter and jewels. [more]

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

April 10, 2014

Beg. Borrow. Steal. In a breathtaking leap, famed Audra McDonald has vaulted past anything she's ever done to this pinnacle of performance art, her portrait of Billie Holiday, the mesmerizing, tragic figure who haunts us still with the beauty and wreckage of her life, and if you don't go to see her, you'll be poorer for it. Because this is not only Billie Holiday, this is Audra McDonald at her consummate best. [more]
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