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New York City Opera

Brokeback Mountain

June 3, 2018

While "Brokeback Mountain" impresses in its sincerity, it does not move which is a serious problem considering the romantic and tragic plot. Director Jacopo Spirei’s cast is in fine form as singers though the music and its libretto fail to fulfill this story’s potential. Daniel Okulitch and Glenn Seven Allen as the two doomed lovers make indelible impressions of men in a repressed society which does not allow them freedom of expression - even though they are not given the kind of music that can move the heart to tears. Brokeback Mountain which is fine as far as it goes offers the same disappointment of many new modern operas in that its writing falls short of its high-reaching intentions. [more]

Dolores Claiborne

October 26, 2017

King’s "Dolores Claiborne" would seem a strange choice for dramatization as the book is a monologue told entirely by its protagonist at a police interrogation over a murder on Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine. Though J.D. McClatchy’s streamlined libretto is very faithful to the book (while eliminating some characters and complications), it never approximates the compelling and wry narrative voice in Dolores’ first-person tale which makes her sympathetic and gives a sense of urgency to her story. Mezzo-soprano Lisa Chavez creates a believably passive character as a maid/companion to a selfish, rich woman whom she is accused of killing and an abused wife saddled with an alcoholic and brutal husband who died 30 years earlier but she brings no sympathy to the role. She just seems a tired, traumatized woman, not very interesting for the leading character in an opera. [more]

La Fanciulla del West (New York City Opera)

September 10, 2017

The newly reconstituted New York City Opera opened its second full season with a shared production of Puccini’s rarely performed "La Fanciulla del West" created in collaboration with the Teatro di Giglio di Lucca, Italy; Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Sardinia; and Opera Carolina of Charlotte, North Carolina. Ivan Stefanutti’s production is solid but old-fashioned and traditional except for huge projections that fill the back wall of the three sets, some which work and some which don’t. Conducted by James Meena, Opera Carolina’s general director and principal conductor, with a cast led by soprano Kristin Sampson in the title role, both the orchestra and cast gave sturdy though only intermittently exciting performances in this unusual Italian opera. [more]

Angels in America (New York City Opera)

June 23, 2017

By eliminating most of the extended fantasy elements of the play, they reduced the storyline to the domestic turbulence of two couples and a deservedly ugly portrait of Roy Cohn. Add in a visit by the iconic Bethesda Fountain Angel (here totally generic) and some very dramatic, brass-heavy music and you have this intriguing production by New York City Opera that succeeds as an opera as long as one is not familiar with the source material. What seemed heavy going and existential in the original comes across on a much more human level in the opera. [more]

La Campana Sommersa (New York City Opera)

April 8, 2017

This production was a co-effort with Fondazione Teatro Lirico di Cagliari whose orchestra joined forces with the New York City Opera Orchestra under the baton of Ira Levin who brought out every bit of color in the music. Maestro Levin was sensitive to the needs of the singers, knowing just how to mold the orchestra’s sounds so that their voices soared over the often over-orchestrated score (not helped by the wrong-headed scrim used in the forest scenes). [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]

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]

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]

Souvenir

November 28, 2005

Using Foster Jenkins' legacy as a jumping off point, the piece, subtitled a Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins tells this brave character's story through the eyes of Cosme McMoon (Donald Corren), a frustrated composer who spent many years as her competent, long-suffering accompanist. Souvenir could also be subtitled, "A memory play." This two-character study opens in 1964, with McMoon performing in a Greenwich Village piano bar, on the anniversary of Jenkins' death 20 years before. Unable to concentrate on the keyboard, McMoon chats with his audience, digressing into memories of his collaboration with the infamous, improbable soprano. [more]