|Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as Carmen|
Once again The Metropolitan Room played host to Opera New York, which has been creating quite a sensation with their presentation of opera in a cabaret environment, one of the many avenues available to bring opera to a wider audience.
The brainchild of Artistic Director Judith Fredricks (who also directs the scenes), these evenings draw a wider audience every time they perform. Last night's event "Where Opera and Cabaret Collide!" was part of The First International Cabaret Festival. That the audience was having a whale of a good time was made evident by the thunderous applause, whoops and hollers which followed each number, as well as by the rapt silence during the performances. Did we mention that it was "standing room only"?
The evening was made extra special by the presence of world renowned mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, fresh from her triumphs at Houston Grand Opera. Ms. Graham always uses her gifts well and amplifies them with her larger-than-life personality. Last night we heard the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen as we have never heard it before. Without sets or costumes Ms. Graham created the personality of this dangerous Spanish temptress from the center outward. When she sang the word "l'amour" she seemed to be not only tasting the vowel but savoring it.
The remainder of the program, emceed by Jason Graae, hewed closely to the prior programs with a stunning addition. Soprano Veronica Loiacono performed "De España Venga" from Pablo Luna's zarzuela, El Niño Judio. Readers may recall how beloved zarzuela is to us and to say we were thrilled would be an understatement.
Perhaps because it was a festival, perhaps due to the artists getting more comfortable with the cabaret setting, or perhaps because of the presence of Ms. Graham, everyone's performances seemed to be even sharper than ever before.
Tenor Edgar Jaramillo's "Federico's Lament" from Cilea's L'Arlesianna was even more heart-wrenching than before (with oboe accompaniment from Mr, Graae), as was tenor Percy Martinez' "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. We felt feelings we had never felt before during prior hearings.
Soprano Elena Heimur was even more extravagant in "Musetta's Waltz" from Puccini's La Bohème and mezzo-soprano Jodi Karem was even more seductive as Maddalena in the quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto.
Baritone Roberto Borgatti swaggered magnificently and wandered the aisles of The Metropolitan Room impressing the ladies as he leaned into the "Toreador Song" from Carmen, with just the right amount of bullfighter arrogance.
Music Director Michael Pilafian handled the piano accompaniment to perfection.
It was a splendid evening and no one wanted it to end to make room for the late show. We are sure they will return for more on March 9th. There seems to be a growing demand for opera up close and personal, especially when performed so well.
(c) meche kroop