Opera Feed

River to River Festival - "Naamah's Ark"

by Steven Pisano

28016303517_0f6cbbebed_o(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Now in its 17th year, the River to River Festival is a series of free performances presented each summer in Lower Manhattan, offering music, dance, theater, and visual arts. On Sunday, in Rockefeller Park along the Hudson River, an oratorio by composer Marisa Michelson and librettist Royce Vavrek, "Naamah's Ark," was presented on an open-air stage featuring almost 200 singers.

Like many communities on the East Coast - including the area surrounding Rockefeller Park - Hurricane Sandy brought widespread destruction to the Long Island town of Lawrence, NY.  Different socioeconomic communities within Lawrence had for a long time been separate, keeping to themselves, but the storm changed everything, bringing the people of the town closer together as they all recovered from the storm.

Inspired by Michelson's conversations with the residents of Lawrence, "Naamah's Ark" re-centers the biblical story of Noah's Ark around Noah's wife Namaah, about whom relatively little is known. Here, Naamah is very much a modern woman, doing all she can to hold things together in the face of a disastrous flood - just like the residents of Lawrence.

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Summer 2018 Music Preview

Celebrate Brooklyn
Hard to believe it's already June, and while this year's Gov Ball has already come and gone, the music is just starting to move to the great outdoors. Below is a preview of some of our favorites - check out our Summertime list on the right for updates throughout the summer. 

Celebrate Brooklyn: (June 5-August 11) NYC's best outdoor music venue celebrates it's 40th year with another stellar lineup that kicks off with Chicago rapper (and Microsoft shill) Common on 6/5. Other free shows include Aimee Mann (6/21), Branford Marsalis (6/29), Kronos Quartet (7/14), and a stellar closing weekend with Godspeed YOU! Black Emperor (8/10) and The Breeders with Speedy Ortiz (8/11). Benefit shows this year include a killer double bill with Grizzly Bear and Spoon (6/20), The Decemberists with M. Ward (6/13), and Courtney Barnett with Julien Baker and Vagabon (7/25). 

Northside Festival (June 7-10): Northside is now a decade old, and the clubs will be jammed across Williamsburg and Bushwick with the latest in cutting edge music, alongside stalwarts such as Caspian, Deerhoof, and Liz Phair. Sunday afternoon brings a Block Party to Bedford Ave, with bands and vendors running all the way to Metropolitan Ave.

NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks (June 12-17): What were you doing when you were 11 years old? Well, if you're Jordan Millar and Camryn Cowan, you're having your music played by the New York Philharmonic at this year's parks concerts, courtesy of the Phil's Very Young Composers program. (They also play music by Bernstein, Saint-Saens, and Rimsky-Korsakov.) The Phil visits all five boroughs next week with conductor James Gaffigan; details here

SummerStage (June 2-September 27): This sprawling series returns with a wide spectrum of music performed in parks across all five boroughs, most of it free. Highlights include a Canada Day celebration headlined by Broken Social Scene (7/1), Afrobeat scion Femi Kuti and Positive Force (7/29), a New Orleans fest with Trombone Shorty, Galactic, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and (8/8), and Angelique Kidjo covering The Talking Heads (9/27).

Make Music New York (June 21): Celebrate the longest day of the year with this citywide musical happening, with performances on street corners, plazas and parks from sun-up to sundown.

Warm Up at MoMA PS1 (June 30-September 1): NYC's best tea dance enters its third decade at MoMA PS1, with an architectural installation featuring large-scale, interactive mirrors - and hopefully some misters. Tickets include museum admission. (LI City residents get in for free.)

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"Aida" by Regina Opera in Brooklyn

by Steven Pisano

  20180505-DSC05174(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Now wrapping up its 48th season, the Regina Opera company in Brooklyn performs in the auditorium of a school, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy of Brooklyn, in Sunset Park. It is not a gold-encrusted  palace of theater and music like the Metropolitan Opera or the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The singers do not have exclusive recording contracts with major labels. The scenery is not bigger than the buildings in most small towns.

And yet...just off the busy 59th Street subway station of the N and R trains, the Regina Opera company is currently presenting a knockout production of Giuseppe Verdi's massive warhorse, Aida. There are no elephants, no legions of slaves, no massive life-size temples in the desert. But what there is is simple but effective staging, a lively orchestra, and above it all, uniformly glorious singing. It is a solid treat for the ears from beginning to end, and if you are an opera lover, or only a Verdi lover, it is well worth  travelling to see it, as it only plays two weekends as part of the 2018 New York OperaFest.

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Heartbeat Opera's Modernized Versions of "Fidelio" and "Don Giovanni"

by Steven Pisano

  20180508-DSC03043(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Heartbeat Opera is one of a number of smaller opera companies seeking to maintain traditional opera as a vital force in the twenty-first century by reimagining works from the canon in edgy new ways that mirror the electric productions of contemporary operas put on by the likes of the Prototype Festival, Opera Philadelphia, and Nashville Opera. It is as if the folks at Heartbeat view Mozart, Donizetti, Beethoven, and so on, as being every bit on the current scene as David T. Little, Missy Mazzoli, Kevin Puts, and other contemporary opera-composing stars.

That can be a very exciting endeavor, producing traditional operas less as historical artifacts and more as essential works that still have meaningful relevance to today's binge-watching audiences. At the same time, for purists, it can be akin to heresy. Traditionalists are accustomed to turning a blind eye toward nips and tucks that trim bloated works from the past, but Heartbeat Opera goes further. Not simply content to apply window dressing to accommodate modern tastes and attention spans, they wrestle old operas onto the table, dissect them from the inside, then put all the parts back together in a way that sometimes stays true to the original and other times veers far astray. In many ways, the result is less an interpretation than a collaboration across time--the composers and librettists from two centuries ago paired with the theater artists of today.

As part of the 2018 New York OperaFest now playing through June all around town, Heartbeat Opera is presenting Mozart's Don Giovanni and Beethoven's Fidelio at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. Both productions feature stellar young casts in exciting, stripped-down productions that burn brightly both musically and theatrically.

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