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A go-to event for opera lovers over the world

New York
New York
01/05/2019 -  

La MaMa Ellen Stewart Theatre
January 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 2019
Ellen Reid: prism
Anna Schubert, Rebecca Jo Loeb (vocalists), Charbel Rohayem, Chris Emile, Gigi Todisco, Tatiana Barber (dancers)
The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and NOVUS NY, Julian Wachner (conductor)
James Darrah (director), Chris Bordenave (choreographer & assistant director), Adam Rigg (scenic designer), Molly Irelan (costume designer), Pablo Santiago-Brandwein (lighting designer), Garth MacAleavey (sound designer),

HERE Dorothy B. Williams Theatre
January 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 2019
Joseph Keckler: Train With No Midnight (musical arrangements in collaboration with Matthew Dean Marsh, Michael Hanf & Dan Bartfield)
Joseph Keckler (singer)
Michael Hanf (percussion), Matthew Dean Marsh (keyboards), Lavinia Pavlish (violin)
Elizabeth Gimbel (directorial advisor), Andromache Chalfant (scenic design), Ayumu Poe Saegusa (CMsl) (lighting design), Charles Hagaman (sound design & engineering), Lianne Arnold (video design & engineering), Leo Gugu (costume design), Jaimie Warren (animal sculpture) Michael Sharkey (director of photography), Erika Rundle (dramaturgy), Saori Tsukada (movement advisor)

Florence Gould Hall—French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)
January 12, 13, 2019
Frances Pollock: Stinney: An American Execution (orchestration by Samuel Hunter)
Jazmin Black Grollemund, Daniel Sampson, Fitzgerald St. Louis, Aaron (A.J.) Garrett, Claire Galloway, Felicia Moore, Daryl Yoder, Blake Friedman, Andrew Hann, Rob McGinness, Madeline Pollock, Vivian Poe, Taylor-Alexis DuPont, LaQuavia Alston, Tirzah Hawley, Alexandra Schleuderer, Mary Kathryn Monday, Lynnesha Crump, Kerry Holahan, Brian Mummert, JaVonn Bright, Dwayne Washington (performers)
Rob Neubauer, Matt Woodard, Abby Swidler, Daniel Jacobs, Jessica Wang, Samuel Zagnit, Roberta Michel, Kate Amrine, Daniel Meinhardt, Russell Fisher, Luis Jacome (instrumentalists), Hailey Anthum Hunter (piano), Alexander Lloyd Blake (conductor)
Emma Weinstein & Jeremy O. Harris (directors), Imani Mosley & Jeremy O. Harris (dramaturgy), Camilla Tassi (projection design), Krista Smith (lighting design)

A. Schubert in prism(© Courtesy Prototype Festival)

The Prototype Festival of new music/drama was presented in New York from January 5 to 13. Produced by the adventuresome Beth Morrison Projects and HERE, which organizes mixed media productions of the highest caliber the Festival presents work ranging from pop to the new classical genres. 4.48 Psychosis was first produced at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Ellen Reid’s opera prism is on a rolling premiere, having been produced at Red Cat by Los Angeles Opera prior to its arrival in New York. Reid is known as a brilliant innovator of contemporary classical music. Like all great opera composers, she invests her music with the rich emotional life of the characters she creates with librettist Roxie Perkins. The music is also apt and inventive in its detail. Reid can move seamlessly from silky to raw. An electronic pad often booms out a bass. The French horn played by Laura Wiener can sound like the growls of a tuba. A choir of 12 from Trinity Church in New York becomes a third character, expressing the interior thoughts of one of the two central figures, Bibi. They are off-stage.

Lighting director Pablo Santiago provides the colors of sexual assault. The dark world is literally bathed in blue. A subtly soft sanctuary is yellow. These are only two of the cornucopia of colors offered in music and staging.

There is no development. Instead we are in invited to listen and feel. Director James Darrah deepens our response by insisting that Bibi, sung in a lovely lyric soprano by Anna Schubert, be numb from the waist down.

Lumee, the mother, is sung by superb mezzo soprano Rebecca Jo Loeb. She explores a remarkable vocal range, full of texture as we are introduced to her in a transparent gauzy gown of flowing white. For her tarty night club appearance, she is dressed in short, shorts with plunging decolletage, street walker style. Her voice takes on a rough edge. Reid is a force to be reckoned with in the opera world.

Joseph Keckler’s Train with No Midnight was presented at HERE. This is a song cycle Schumann might have written had he lived in our time. Tormented, humorous, accepting the ambiguity of an Apocalypse that does not come, Keckler draws us into a timeless journey aria by song by aria.

Trained as an opera singer, Keckler has a roiling bass baritone which can also be a tenor of supreme beauty and an unusual soprano, produced naturally and without the often forced texture of a countertenor. The vocal variety enhances the cycle by providing another dimension for a palette to color in.

Keckler was accompanied by a pianist, a violinist and a percussionist, who also played the guitar. A special texture was created by a bow being drawn over a vibraphone key. This intriguing song cycle travels from Paris to Hamburg to Elkhart, Indiana.

Stinney: An American Execution is a work in development by Frances Pollock. Drawing on court records from 1944 in South Carolina, this wrenching story portrays a fourteen year old black boy, executed for two murders he did not commit. His life is the cover for a group of rednecks. Pollock calls on the musical culture of blacks and of rednecks.

A chorus punctuates the musical lines with phrases like “My God.” Speech is interwoven with singing. Daniel Sampson gives a moving portrayal of the boy’s father, and Andrew Hann as Dean, in the thankless role of the mean, cruel man whose character is defined by his vocal delivery, is superb.

The contribution of the Prototype Festival to creating new opera and attracting new audiences can not be overestimated. This has become a go-to event for opera lovers over the world.

Susan Hall



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