The last of the Blue Grass Boys has gone to that Grand Ol' Opry in the Sky: banjo player and bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs has passed at the age of 88 in Nashville. Earl - arguably the greatest 5-string banjo player in history - was a pioneer in the three-finger picking style, influencing at least three generations of players around the world. Without Earl, bluegrass and country music simply wouldn't be what they are today.
For their latest production, OPERAtion Brooklyn hooked on to the ever-popular Alice in Wonderland theme, mounting a two-night opera-burlesque “party” that featured excerpts from Alice-inspired vocal works by Susan Botti, Manly Romero, and David del Tredici. In many ways, Galapagos Arts Space was an ideal venue for such a venture, with its lily pad-style seating, dark wood, and candlelit balcony.
However, Monday night’s semi-staged production of scenes from Botti’s early opera, Wonderglass, failed to hit its mark. Despite an eerie introduction from a tall, gangly man dressed as the White Rabbit, the presentation of the first opera of the evening was quite rudimentary. (Sadly, I was only able to stay for the Botti work.) The producers of the evening quickly shattered the mystery of the White Rabbit’s presence by taking to the stage to announce drink specials and raffles that were to take place far later in the evening.
Thankfully, Botti’s music spoke for itself—a unique work that pulled inspiration from neo-classical Stravinsky, Kurt Weill, and Eastern gamelan sounds. Like most of Botti’s music, the voice is the focus, and there were certainly some operatic aerobatics on display. The Queen of Heart’s invitation to croquet tested the extreme range of the soprano, accompanied by fanfare and march motives from the jazz ensemble. In another of the Queen’s scenes, the tone changed on a dime, with the Queen morphing into a flamenco dancer-chanteuse, complete with hand claps and well-played solos from the sax and trombone players.
For all you Ring-heads out there, Peter Gelb will host a conversation about the Met's upcoming Ring Cycle tonight at the UWS Apple Store, starting at 6pm. Panelists include director Robert LePage, Debbie Voigt (Brünnhilde), and Eric Owens (Alberich). And, yes, the panel will be available for a "brief" Q&A. Oh boy.