|Veronica Loiacono, Elena Heimur, Roberto Borgatti, and Jodi Karem
We didn't expect opera to go so well in a cabaret setting but last night was our second such adventure and we are happy to report that in the right hands it goes very well. The right hands belong to impressario/singer/teacher/coach Judith Fredricks who created the show at the Metropolitan Room on W. 22nd St. By the time you get to the end of the review, you will probably want to attend the show on Thursday evening if you are lucky enough to snag a table.
The room was packed last night and the audience was as good as the singers. In spite of the imbibing of alcoholic libations, the audience was absolutely silent until the end of each aria (or duet or ensemble), bursting into wild whoops and applause at the appropriate time. We do not know whether the audience comprised seasoned opera goers searching for more intimacy of presentation or cabaret folks new to opera.
Host for the evening was Broadway's own Jason Graae who introduced each number and told a bit of the backstory. He also sang the role of Papageno in the second act duet from Mozart's Magic Flute (in English) with lovely soprano Veronica Loiacono as his Papagena. Moreover, he accompanied several pieces on the oboe! His introductory number was "Wilkommen! Bienvenu!" from Cabaret.
If there were any skeptics in the audience they must have been immediately won over by "Sous le dome épais" (The Flower Song) from Leo Delibes' Lakme. Soprano Elena Heimur and mezzo Jodi Karem had lovely chemistry together (eye contact!) and balanced their voices perfectly in Delibes' winning harmonies.
Tenor Edgar Jaramillo gave a moving account of "Federico's Lament" from Cilea's L'Arlesiana that brought us to the edge of tears.
Ms. Loiacono has just the right coquettish looks and coloratura skills to be a most convincing Rosina in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Her performance of "Una voce poco fa" included wild flights of fioritura that we so love.
Ms. Karem's dusky mezzo could have seduced tenor Percy Martinez' Samson even if she were not as beautiful as she is. This Delilah was a double threat as she sang "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix", from the Saint-Saëns opera.
Ms. Heimur's generous soprano filled up "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's La Rondine and did so in a most moving manner.
The final tragic quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto was well handled by Ms. Loiacono as the doomed Gilda, baritone Roberto Borgatti as the eponymous Rigoletto, Ms. Karem as Maddalena, and (surprise!) the very sweet voiced Mr. Jaramillo playing the wicked two-timing Duke. It's a big challenge for him to portray a slimeball!
Mr. Martinez distinguished himself as Canio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. His "Vesti la giubba" was deeply moving and succeeded in evoking sympathy for the character.
The second scene of Puccini's La Bohème involves Musetta making a big show of herself in "Quando m'en vo" while the other Bohemians are sitting at a table. The scene was well staged by Ms. Fredricks and superbly sung by Ms. Heimur who let out all the stops. Mr. Graae hammed it up as her elderly admirer.
Mr. Martinez and Mr. Borgatti tackled "Si, pel ciel" from Verdi's Otello and nailed it. Mr. Borgatti had to trick Mr. Martinez into believing that his beloved Desdemona was unfaithful. Another slimeball role, but well done.
A scene from Bizet's Carmen starred Mr. Borgatti in the Toreador song and Ms. Karem as Carmen. Ms. Heimur and Ms. Loiacono (as Mercedes and Frasquita) flirted madly with him. Ms. Karem's Carmen was as superbly seductive as her Delilah and she accompanied herself on the castanets in the "Gypsy Song".
We were totally satisfied with the evening but there was one more aria coming--Mr. Jaramillo gave us a fine Calaf singing "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's Turandot, and drove the audience wild. He has a generosity of spirit when he sings and can achieve volume at the upper end of the register without tightening his throat. A real pleasure to hear!
Accompanist and Music Director for the evening was Michael Pilafian who got everything just right.
We have heard all of these singers before and they just keep getting better and better. Thursday's program will have someone new on board and some alterations in the program. If we can shift things around we will go again. Opera and cabaret could be a match made in heaven. Exploring new venues and new audiences need never involve a sacrifice of quality.
(c) meche kroop