Opera Feed

Handel's "Orlando" at the Whitebox Art Center

by Christina Klessig

Orlando, Whitebox Art Center
Entering into the minimalistic Whitebox Art Center on Friday night was like stepping into a rehearsal space at Julliard, the only stage set an empty five seat park bench on risers. Seeing two donation boxes with small amounts of cash at the entrance raised some red flags about the quality of the production of Handel's Orlando I was about to see, but once the houselights went down, I knew this was going to be something special.

I was there for a preview of Handel’s 1733 opera Orlando, directed by R.B. Schlather. Schlather didn’t simply update the setting to modern times, he actively modernized the interpretations of Handel’s baroque lyrics to coincide with our modern day expectations of body language and communication. There was deep emotion in the acting, which allowed the strong vocal performances to wash over the space. Towards the end, the performance began to blur the lines between opera and performance art - perhaps not unexpected in a space that doubles as an art gallery. The orchestra could have used a few more rehearsals, but otherwise this was an intriguing reinterpretation of this nearly 300 year old masterpiece. 

The final performance of Orlando at the Whitebox Art Center is tonight at 7pm. A limited number of rush tickets are still available; more info available online

"Meredith Monk and Friends" at Zankel Hall

by Steven Pisano

Meredith Monk at Zankel HallOne thing is clear: Meredith Monk has a lot of friends—musicians who have both directly and indirectly been influenced by her work. And she has written a lot of music. So, it was only fitting that Monk, who is this season's Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall, was the subject of Sunday afternoon's “Meredith Monk and Friends” at Zankel Hall, celebrating her 50-year career (so far) as one of today's most widely admired musicians. 

This marathon concert lasted four-and-a-half hours, and hardly scratched the surface of her output. 1970’s “Dungeon” was performed with frenetic fury by John Zorn on a squawking, screeching, caterwauling saxophone while Cyro Baptista thumped methodically on a big bass drum. Other works were as current as the delicate a cappella “Cellular Songs,” which Monk and her famed Vocal Ensemble have been working on for the last several weeks. At age 70, Monk is clearly not content to simply rehash the past, but continues to look ever forward.

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"Lucia di Lammermoor" at the Metropolitan Opera

by Steven Pisano

Lucia di Lammermoor Metropolitan Opera

Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan Opera’s current production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor doesn't really show up on stage until the third and final act, but when it does, scoot up to the front of your seat and listen closely, because there are some scintillating vocal fireworks about to come your way.

The plot is simple, if not very interesting. Lucia Ashton is tricked (via a forged letter) into thinking her true love Edgardo has found another woman, and then is forced by her brother Enrico to marry Arturo, a wealthy man she does not love, as a means to preserve her family’s fortunes. But hold on: she then psychotically flips out and murders the poor sap Arturo, on their wedding day. So maybe this will prove interesting after all....

One problem early on is that while the staging by Daniel Ostling is majestic, and poetically lit by T.J. Gerckens, it is way too outsized for the simple human interactions of the story. After all, even the grandest love stories are between just two people--but here the characters seemed crushed by their larger-than-life setting.

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Preview: La Donna del Lago at the Met Opera

La Donna del Lago CastFor those of you going to tomorrow's matinee of Rossini's La Donna del Lago - either at the Met Opera or at one of the thousands of movie theaters around the world showing the HD simulcast - you are in for a treat. I saw Tuesday's performance of this first-ever Met run of Rossini's forgotten bel canto masterpiece, and both Joyce DiDonato as Ellen and Juan Diego Flórez as Scotland's King James are brilliant beyond words. How these singers are able to pull off such pyrotechnics boggles the imagination. Be sure to also watch out for mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona, in a pants role as Ellen's suitor Malcolm, and Brooklyn native Oren Gradus as Ellen's father, Duglas. If you're in NYC, tune into the radio broadcast on WQXR 105.9FM - or pop in one of the dozens of local theaters showing it live.

Watch DiDonato and Flórez talk about the production here. (Check out Juan Diego's choice of words at 4:22.) More pics on the photo page