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Opera

Otello (LoftOpera)

March 20, 2017

LoftOpera is a feisty little company that operates around Brooklyn, especially Bushwick. They are giving" Otello" in LightSpace Studios, a disco on Flushing Avenue about the size of a high school gymnasium. There’s a small orchestra (27, about half the size Rossini wrote for), kept under tight but lyrical control by the company’s maestro, Sean Kelly. The singers do not appear to be looking at him for cues while they are enthusiastically playing out the story, but they only got lost once at Saturday night’s performance. [more]

Candide (New York City Opera)

January 10, 2017

Linda Lavin, padded and badly bewigged, comes across more like a Jewish yenta than the victim of the vagaries of Eastern European warfare. She has only one song, “Easily Assimilated,” a silly attempt at seduction, which is a shame. This character had several numbers in the original, including one that actually referred to why she is “missing the half of my backside.” Lavin is a star, but is ill-used here. [more]

The Mikado Reimagined (NYGASP)

January 5, 2017

In keeping with Sullivan having been hit over the head, the cast is clothed in a motley collection: a combination of late Victorian and Japanese styles. Some are in all Japanese, some in all Victorian, most are in a combination of the two. Even the Victorian costumes have baroque additions to make them look exotic. The women all wear Victorian gowns with bustles open in the back just as though they had not finished dressing. The concept while colorful is quite a mess with every possible variation on stage at the same time. [more]

27

November 14, 2016

Gordon created the role of Gertrude Stein with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe in mind. Blythe’s monumental presence, thanks to a towering, charismatic, forceful voice, is meant to arrest and command attention. Blythe captures Stein’s complicated personality – her genius, her stalwartness, her humor and her occasional, brutal judgments about the artistic quality of her bon mots. [more]

Cox and Box & Trial by Jury

October 31, 2016

Introducing what he dubbed a pair of “Comedies of Crime,” NYGASP’s artistic director Albert Bergeret offered what he said was a first of a new series for the company: intimate performances of works by Sir Arthur Sullivan in the jewel box Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater performed to one piano, rather than to the usual full orchestra. In addition, the cast of "Trial by Jury" was comprised of the NYGASP’s Wand’ring Minstrels, a quintet of singers made up from the company, rather than using the full chorus, while the production of "Cox and Box" featured a newly edited version by singer/director David Macaluso. The new format for these delightfully entertaining productions had their advantages and disadvantages. [more]

Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble: Verdi’s La Traviata & Chansons de Baudelaire

September 19, 2016

The performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" featuring Bonnie Frauenthal as Violetta and Jose Heredia as Alfredo Germont was wonderful in many ways. Frauenthal sang and acted her complex role compellingly: she is a confident singer, capable of both womanly sturdiness and subtle virtuosity, and she inhabited the dense narrative of Violetta's story credibly and compellingly. Heredia's youthful and earnest Alfredo was also convincing; his deep love of Violetta and grief at her death were poignantly believable. Interestingly, as an actor, Heredia stuck so literally to the movement of Alfredo's character in Piave's libretto that Alfredo's subservience to his father was maddening: the son's filial weakness undercut the manliness of his love for Violetta. Both Frauenthal and Heredia sang with integrity; they held nothing back from full commitment to either their roles or their audience. [more]

Aleko & Pagliacci (New York City Opera)

September 12, 2016

While the New York City Opera’s staging of "Aleko" could not be called a major rediscovery, it was an admirable attempt to offer a non-standard repertory work that had probably not been seen by any of its New York audience. The real surprise was the thrilling and commanding performance of "Pagliacci" which bodes well for NYCO’s future life and health at Lincoln Center. In addition, the New York City Opera Chorus, under the direction of William Hobbs, gave persuasive performances in both operas, another feather in the City Opera’s cap. [more]

Florencia en el Amazonas

June 29, 2016

This production had two brilliant design/directoral conceits that worked hand in glove with the musical elements to tell the story. The first involved twelve dancers from Ballet Hispanico’s BHdos all in white body suits from head to toe, undulating virtually continuously down stage in front of the ship, representing the river and its secrets. With indefatigably choreographed by Nicholas Villeneuve and breathtakingly lit by Barry Steele, they, indeed, became a living part of the scenery, even interacting with the characters on the ship. [more]

Princess Ida (2016)

May 28, 2016

Completing New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ 40th Season was a rare revival of 1884 "Princess Ida," the team’s eighth operetta and the only one in which the dialogue is in blank verse, it is presented in three acts, and it is based on a previous play by Gilbert. In the playwright/librettist’s second parody of Tennyson’s book-length poem "The Princess," the themes include feminism, education for women, Darwinism and the Battle of the Sexes. While the operetta still displays its relevance and timeliness, the NYG&SP production proved to be uneven in several categories. [more]

Dido and Aeneas

May 7, 2016

Staged by director/choreographer Doug Varone, "Dido and Aeneas" was amusingly presented in modern dress with Varone’s dancers playing the ensemble in both operas and pantomiming unseen props and scenery. As the original Purcell music to the surviving Nahum Tate 1689 prologue has been lost, LaChiusa has created a witty new one entitled" The Daughters of Necessity: A Prologue," and lasting 15 minutes. After the Chorus (men in bleachers on stage left, women on stage right) welcomed us, they recounted the myth of the Fates: Nono (Sarah Mesko) who spins the thread of life, Decima (Anna Christy) measures it, and Morta (Clark) snips the thread with her scissors. [more]

Les Fêtes Vénitiennes

April 22, 2016

At turns beautifully silly, dreamy, exquisitely moving and always delightful, "Fêtes" is a sweeping, if daffy, look at life in eighteenth century Venice. Christie and his director Robert Carsen, framed the opera ingeniously by beginning the work in modern day Saint Mark’s Square complete with modern day tourists—mostly members of Ed Wubbe’s Scapino Ballet—with their cellphones, backpacks and obnoxious behavior. [more]

¡Figaro! (90210)

March 25, 2016

Virtually performed all in English with some Spanish for comic effect," ¡Figaro! (90210)" is true to the art form with recitative and arias, that is sung speech and grand solos rather then integrated dialogue and songs that characterize traditional musical comedy. Supertitles are projected above the stage for anything that may be vocally indecipherable. [more]

American Classical Orchestra: “L’Isola Disabitata”

March 3, 2016

The most psychologically complex role is Silvia's. Over the course of the opera, she moves from childlike naïveté to loving generosity of heart. Energetic and intelligent, she unlearns her sister's morbid lessons about men's wickedness so completely that as a newly emerged adult, she falls in love without reservation or fear. Sherezade Panthaki's Silvia was marvelous: the full evolution of her character was reflected in singing that moved from light sweetness to exuberant, vigorous sensuality. In her artistry, Panthaki made her Silvia a young woman with neither inhibition nor fear; Panthaki took every possible risk with Haydn's music and made it all feel like happiness in the process of being discovered. [more]

The Pirates of Penzance

December 30, 2015

The cast includes beloved NYGASP favorites as well as some less familiar faces. Coloratura soprano Sarah Caldwell Smith’s Mabel wins a justly earned ovation signing her aria, “Poor Wandering One!,” declaring her love for Frederic. He is played with cheerful restraint by tenor Carter Lynch (alternating with Daniel Greenwood). Bass-baritone David Wannen has a fine swashbuckling time as The Pirate King. Contralto Angela Christine-Smith as Ruth gives a memorable rendition of her aria, “When Frederic Was A Little Lad.” Bass David Auxier as the Sergeant of Police deals delightfully with his band of bumbling officers. [more]

Chelsea Opera: Glory Denied

November 21, 2015

Launching its twelfth season with a revival of its 2010 production of Tom Cipullo's widely acclaimed "Glory Denied," Chelsea Opera made clear once again the reasons for which it has become and continues to be a leader among small regional opera companies here in the Northeast: presenting a varied and ambitious repertoire, it maintains consistently high standards of both music and theatrical direction. Both the fine complex score of "Glory Denied" and the first rate musicianship of the singers and instrumentalists who performed it were enhanced by the staging and direction of the company's co-founder and co-executive producer Lynne Hayden-Findlay. [more]

Experiments in Opera:  “The Travel Agency Is On Fire: Burroughs Cuts Up the Great Bards”

October 26, 2015

The evening consisted of two sets; the first six pieces lasted from 8:00 to 9:05 PM, were then followed by a between-set break of almost an hour for last-minute rehearsals and sound checks, and the concluding five pieces lasted from 10:00 to 11:15 PM. Before each piece was performed, a pre-recorded introduction was provided. These were fairly conversational in tone; some contained useful contextual information about the piece while others were more wandering; unfortunately, these recorded introductions were often difficult to understand. [more]

The Magic Fish

October 11, 2015

Sunny Knable’s music is romantic and lilting. He has called his style a cross between Stephen Sondheim and Benjamin Britten. In this he does himself an injustice as his music is much more melodic. As an American opera composer, he follows in the footsteps of Douglas Moore, Carlyle Floyd, Dominick Argento and Thomas Pasateri. Jim Knable’s libretto cleverly uses spoken dialogue for the prose passage and rhymed verse for the musical settings. The vocabulary is suitable for young children but the sentiments and plot complications are entertaining for adults. [more]

The Peking Opera: The Jewelry Purse

September 11, 2015

With considerable fanfare and extensive advance publicity, Chinese opera singer Zhang Juoding made her American debut at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. Performing with the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, Zhang Huoding brought her own very modern magnetic star power and the very old, formal traditions of a highly stylized traditional Chinese art form to an exuberantly adoring, largely Chinese audience. Over two nights, the company presented "Legend of the White Snake" and "The Jewelry Purse." On both evenings, the house was packed; about a quarter of the audience came to both evenings. The atmosphere of excitement about The Jewelry Purse on the second evening was fueled in part by the audience delight with the first evening. [more]

Voodoo, A Harlem Renaissance Opera

July 5, 2015

Neglected, ignored and then forgotten, Harry Lawrence Freeman's opera "Voodoo" was brought back to the stage in a compelling production in June, 2015. The opera was last seen at what turned out to be its only production in 1928. Now, more than three-quarters of a century later, it has been brought back to life by Morningside Opera, Harlem Opera Theater, The Harlem Chamber Players and scores of named and unnamed supporters and fund-raisers in the Harlem music community. [more]

Chelsea Opera: Tosca

June 15, 2015

St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Chelsea was used to near perfect effect as the setting for all three acts of the opera. "Tosca"'s first act, which does, in fact take place in a church was, precisely because of the narrative, “easy” to stage, but the successful transformation of the St. Peter's Chelsea chancel into first, the emotional claustrophobia of the villainous chief of police's quarters and then, for the last act, the open air witness to revenge and tragedy resulted from the imaginative, effective stage direction and set management of Chelsea Opera's co-founders Leonarda Priore and Lynne Hayden-Findlay. [more]

The Collegiate Chorale: The Road of Promise

May 30, 2015

On May 6 and May 7, 2015 at Carnegie Hall, presenting a concert version of Franz Werfel and Kurt Weill's 1937 The Road of Promise, (Der Weg der Verheissung), The Collegiate Chorale conducted and directed by Ted Sperling undertook a near-daring project … and failed. The performance was uneven at best. The work was more interesting for its problems than its ultimate beauty or success. [more]

The Gondoliers

May 24, 2015

Founded by Albert Bergeret in 1974, he continues to this day as artistic director for the NYGASP, and on this occasion served as director and conductor, with an assist by choreographer David Auxier on the direction. A daunting and impressive achievement, this production also marked the conclusion of the first season in which the NYGASP performed in their new residence: NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. A beautiful and state of the art theater, this is a space that can handle the grandeur and scale of a G&S piece. The theater provides remarkable production value, including a massive pit to house the almost thirty person orchestra. Thanks to the latest in acoustic engineering and innovation, the music of "The Gondoliers" was robust and invigorating. Led by Bergeret, the score filled every inch of the theater and truly transported the audience to another time and place. [more]

Clara

May 5, 2015

On the evening of this performance under review, the audience was treated to a rare surprise: Victoria Bond, writer of the music, was not only present but was also the conductor for the evening. Gramercy Trio, under Bond’s musical direction, skillfully maneuvered through the score. Filled with atonal and complex orchestrations, Bond’s music strikes a fine balance between some very vibrant and cheery melodies followed by quite a few haunting and more chaotic progressions which coincide with the show’s climax. [more]

The Tempest Songbook

April 8, 2015

Gotham Chamber Opera's hour-long program at the Metropolitan Museum, entitled "The Tempest Songbook," took these truisms into account by alternating Shakespeare settings by the contemporary Finnish master Kajia Saariaho, with Baroque-era settings attributed to Purcell. Those who found Saariaho's language unfamiliar or taxing were given a reassuring figured bass to fall back on, while those who found the typical Baroque Aria da Capo form tediously repetitious were never more than a few minutes away from the next of Saariaho's elegant and colorful modernist miniatures. Soprano Jennifer Zetlan and bass-baritone Thomas Richards were both excellent, sounding completely at ease and consistently expressive in this sometimes challenging music. The ensemble of Baroque instruments was conducted with élan by Neal Goren, and the production directed and choreographed elegantly by Luca Veggetti. [more]

Sisyphus

March 1, 2015

"Sisyphus" played at the Abrons Arts Center this February, the newest avant-garde production from Experiments In Opera. Composers Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel, and Matthew Welch (acting as their own librettists) created a promising concept for an opera, with a cultural abundance of Greek myth at their disposal to create a beautiful libretto. However, this world premiere was a case of more tragedy, full of missed opportunities, rather than inspiring. [more]

Slow Dusk & Markheim

December 11, 2014

Two one-act operas by Carlisle Floyd are being presented by The Little Opera Theater of NY, newly arranged for chamber orchestra. One is a very early work, the other is mature, and for those who are interested in the material this is a worthwhile presentation of music you're unlikely to encounter elsewhere anytime soon. [more]

El gato con botas

December 10, 2014

Whether you regularly go to the opera or not, the Gotham Chamber Opera and Tectonic Theater Project's co-production of El gato con botos is an enchanting theater event that will leaving you smiling. It is also an extremely clever use of multimedia sure to amaze all theatergoers. Moisés Kaufman proves himself to be an ingenious director of music theater. [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]

A Wake and a Wedding

November 11, 2014

Encompass New Opera Theatre, under longtime director Nancy Rhodes, is presenting the East Coast premiere of Richard Pearson Thomas's chamber opera A Wake or a Wedding at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. The opera is a burlesque of 19th Century melodrama, with stereotypical characters and a series of silly 'revelations' to resolve the convoluted plot. The music uses an accessible mid-century modernist style, conservative but not inappropriately so. [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]

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]

The Power of Love: Two New Operatic Musicals

September 20, 2014

it was almost entirely slow music, and over 90 minutes of it, something which might give even a Wagnerian pause. This is billed as a new piece, so perhaps it's not too late to suggest that the authors consider some discreet compression, as the opera might benefit from judicious cuts. It takes perhaps half an hour to read the original story, and its brevity is one reason for its effectiveness; but this was more than three times that length, though the original Hawthorne plot has been only very slightly expanded. [more]

The Tender Land

June 28, 2014

Strongest in the cast were Ms. Brittingham as Laurie and Mr. Fredericks as Grandpa. Some of the other singers were defeated by the church acoustics, and director Lynne Hayden-Findlay did what she could with the impossibly tiny playing area. Conductor Samuel McCoy kept everything running smoothly and the ensemble sounded well. [more]
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