We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Tony Boutté, Jessica Gould, Melissa Errico and Jonathan Cake

Once again, Salon/Sanctuary Concerts has presented a compelling site-specific work that we were happy to see for the second time and would be happy to see again next year.  The sisters Gould have created this absorbing production--"More Between Heaven and Earth"--from the letters exchanged between two important figures of the 18th c. including music of that period performed by members of the Salon/Sanctuary Chamber Orchestra.

Thomas Jefferson's philosophy has always held an appeal for us and it was fascinating to find out a little bit about his private life.  Following his wife's death he was sent to Paris as the United States' Minister to France.  There he met and fell madly in love with the young, beautiful and talented Maria Cosway who was unfortunately in a loveless marriage with a man who repressed her artistic self-expression. Notwithstanding, she managed to write music, paint, play the harp and fortepiano, and eventually to found a school in Italy.

The romance was carried on by letters, often delivered with long delays after being subject to interception.  The prose is elegant and subtle; obviously the two of them missed each other, held one another in very high regard and nourished each other not only with words but with music--music which they had heard together in their initial 6 weeks acquaintanceship in Paris (during which they were never alone) and music which Ms. Cosway composed for Jefferson and sent to him.

But she lived in London and he lived in Paris.  At one point she visited Paris without her husband but somehow the two didn't manage to see each other alone until her last night there.  Whether they were kept apart by social obligations or their pride, each hoping for the other to make the first move, we will never know. We do hope that they consummated their love! 

Due to the Revolution in 1789, Jefferson was obliged to return to the United States and Cosway returned to Italy, the country of her birth.  Jefferson became Secretary of State and never returned to Europe.  In 1801 he became President, never to see Cosway again. After a 14 year silence, the couple renewed their correspondence until Jefferson's death in 1826.  Quite a relationship!

This fascinating tale was told in a script constructed by Erica Gould from the letters and writings of the two lovers.  Jessica Gould was responsible for the concept and the curation of the music which she sang along with tenor Tony Boutté.  Antonio Sacchini's opera Dardanus provided both instrumental excerpts and some passionate arias, with further musical contributions from Jacques Duphly played by Elliot Figg on the harpsichord and from Archangelo Corelli, played on the violin by Tatiana Daubek.

Famed actress Melissa Ericco was completely convincing as Cosway and also sang quite beautifully a sad lament of longing "Ogni dolce aura" which Cosway composed expressly for Jefferson. Royal Shakespeare Company actor Jonathan Cake cut a fine figure as Jefferson. Each narrated and read from the letters with additional narration provided by Christen Clifford.

Sumptuous costumes by Deborah Wright Houston and the setting in the Revolutionary period Fraunces Tavern compounded the illusion that we were visiting the 18th c.  If we could go back in time, we would have wanted to devise a way for this couple to have gotten together more!

© meche kroop

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