|Jason Graae, Veronica Loiacono, Roberto Borgatti, Elena Heimur, Edgar Jaramillo, Jodi Karem, Judith Fredricks, and Percy Martinez|
It's a rather new concept--bringing opera out of the concert halls and into different venues, bringing it to people who may not have been exposed to opera or who have been intimidated by it (really??). Judith Fredricks has been producing and directing evenings of opera arias in an off-Broadway studio with table seating and wine service. But, it was time to try something on a larger scale--opera in a nightclub.
Would it work? Would the audience drink too much and get loud and drown out the singers? We had our anticipatory misgivings. We well remember our evenings of opera arias at Caffe Taci where the owner worked the room asking people to quiet down.
Our anxieties were for nothing. Last night's performance at the Metropolitan Room went astonishingly well. Perhaps it was the excellence of the singers but the room was totally silent during the performances until the audience burst into wild applause with shouts of "Bravo!" and "Brava!". Ms. Fredricks gamble paid off in spades.
Host and narrator for the evening was the congenial and multi-talented Broadway star Jason Graae who explained what each opera was about and what the singer was singing about. Thankfully, no amplification was needed or used; Michael Fennelly accompanied on the piano with some surprising contributions from an oboe, played by the versatile Mr. Graae.
The arias and duets were well chosen for their familiarity, providing a sense of comfort for those in the audience who were on the newbie side. The six singers were well known to us and impressed us with the way they adapted to the new situation. They seemed motivated to outdo themselves by singing the best we have ever heard them.
Fast-rising tenor Edgar Jaramillo wowed the audience with "E lucevan le stelle" from Puccini's Tosca. His voice and gesture painted a vivid picture of a life-loving artist recalling the most sensual experiences of his life as he faces his imminent death. We have rarely felt that aria as intensely.
Mr. Jaramillo tackles every aria with the same involvement, as we observed in his "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot.
Soprano Veronica Loiacono made a pitiful plea to her poppa in "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. She next appeared as Gilda in the final act quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto with baritone Roberto Borgatti as the titular character. (No, we don't suspect Ms. Loiacono of having Daddy issues.)
Mr. Jaramillo again stood out as the licentious Duke with his latest conquest Maddalena sung by mezzo-soprano Jodi Karem.
Ms. Karem appeared in a couple temptress roles and certainly has the appearance and seductive color in her voice to carry it off. She was superb as Delilah seducing Samson in "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix" by Saint-Saens. More seduction came in the person of Carmen manipulating Don Jose (finely sung by tenor Percy Martinez). Of course he couldn't resist!
Mr. Martinez shone last night in several other roles as well. His "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci showed an original interpretation that never seemed copied from anyone else's and was, therefore, more moving. He was also fine as Otello in his duet with Mr. Borgatti as the treacherous Iago in "Si, pel ciel" from Verdi's opera of the same name.
Mr. Borgatti found his perfect role as Escamillo, manifesting just the right amount of vocal and dramatic self-confidence in the Toreador song from Bizet's Carmen. He strutted around the small stage swirling his jacket like a cape.
Soprano Elena Heimur showed her versatility in three very different roles. First as Lakme in the famous duet "Sous le dome epais" from the eponymous opera by Delibes (with Ms. Karem); then in "Ch'il bel sogno" from Puccini's La Rondine; and finally as Musetta singing her famous waltz from Puccini's La Boheme, with Mimi, Rodolfo and Marcello mugging in the background.
The finale of the program was the "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata in which the entire ensemble took part. We join them in toasting one of the new directions opera is taking. Thanks Ms. Fredricks, thanks Mr. Graae, and thanks Metropolitan Room for a revolutionary evening. We've moved from the Metropolitan Opera to the Metropolitan Room.
(c) meche kroop