by Robert Leeper
Despite frequent comparisons to the now-defunct City Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera has managed to avoid all of the baggage that comes with filling City Opera's void. The 13 year old GCO has made itself an essential part of the NYC opera landscape by continuing to do what it's always done: produce underperformed, high-quality chamber operas.
In 2003, the then two-year old company presented a double bill of short comic operas by the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, to critical acclaim. Fast forward 11 years, and they have come around to Martinu once again with a presentation of two of the composer's comic operas at the Gerald R. Lynch Theater at John Jay College: the little-performed Alexander Bis, with a French libretto by André Wurmser, and Comedy on the Bridge, with a Czech libretto by Martinu.
Not for nothing, Comedy on the Bridge is Martinu's most successful opera. Originally produced for radio and based on a play by Vaclav Klicpera, the amusing little plot—about a group of people caught on a bridge between two opposing armies, unable to get a laissez-passer forward or re-entry back—needed just the deft, satirical treatment Martinu provides. Gotham Chamber Opera founding artistic director Neal Goren led the chamber orchestra in a sharply defined neo-classical style, with subtly presented syncopations and sharp bitonality neatly underlining the comic action onstage.