Only in New York could you go out on a Monday night and witness two extraordinary musical events. In the first, Opera Feroce presented a pasticcio, an operatic model popular in the baroque period when singers often interpolated their favorite arias into operas by other composers. Since 2012 began we twice saw "The Enchanted Island", another pasticcio, at the Met and enjoyed ourselves to the limit. The latter was based on a couple of Shakespeare plays whereas last night's Amor and Psyche was based on the 2nd c. novel Metamorphosis by Apuleius.
The story is that of the beautiful Psyche who is envied by the goddess Venus. Cupid gets pricked by his own dart and falls in love with her. Venus torments Psyche with impossible tasks. With boundless creativity, the members of Opera Feroce have filled in the story with arias by Handel, Dowland, Porpora, Mancini, Lotti, Stradella, Campion, Durante, Coprario, Soresina, Savatelli, and, not to neglect the Germans, Adam and Johann Philipp Krieger.
This was an original entertainment that delighted the audience, most of whom seemed to be natives of the Upper West Side. Amor was well sung and charmingly acted by mezzo Hayden DeWitt who was also responsible for the arch program notes. Soprano Beth Anne Hatton made a charming and equally well sung Psyche. Their duet "Dormono l'aure estive" was beautifully moving. The other roles were all handled by countertenor Alan Dornak whose extravagant mugging seemed too campy by half. He sounded best in his more mournful duet with Psyche, Handel's "Son nato a lagrimar".
Kelly Savage at the harpsichord was joined by baroque violinist Vita Wallace and Motomi Igarashi who played the viola da gamba. The trio played superbly.
Being a group effort, no one person has taken credit for the concept, direction or musical research--all of which deserve credit. The black baroque costumes were particularly a propos.
As if any more entertainment were necessary we made it to Steven Blier's event "Sing for Your Supper" at Henry's Restaurant. The New York Festival of Song never fails to delight but tonight was more delightful than ever as nine of our favorite singers from Juilliard presented "Invitation to the Dance". As usual, newlywed Steven Blier excelled at his duties as host, arranger and accompanist Andrew Stenvall played some gentle percussion. Stepping out of their roles as opera and lieder singers, the students easily made the transition to "popular" song, without any of the pretentiousness usually heard when opera stars do crossover material. Notably, microphones were not necessary and the audience was blissfully quiet and attentive. Not only was the singing first rate but these guys and gals know how to get a song across. To ice the cupcake, they danced! The education at Juilliard never ceases to amaze me.
Heard with great joy were Elizabeth Sutphen, Karen Vuong, Rachael Wilson and Simone Easthope on the distaff side; the men were Kyle Bielfield, Leo Radosavlijevic, Miles Mykkanen, Nathan Haller and Tobias Greenhalgh. So uplifted were we that we virtually floated home in the faint drizzle.
(c) meche kroop