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.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Joshua Roman, Gregg Kallor, and Elizabeth Pojanowski (photo by Andrew Ousley)

What better place to experience The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe's 1843 short story, than the spooky crypt of a church?  What better time than Halloween? We are deep underground at the Church of the Intercession in Harlem to experience a landmark collaboration between On Site Opera and Crypt Sessions. We are not here for a reading but for the premiere of a new dramatic cantata composed by pianist/recording artist/composer Gregg Kallor.

Both collaborating companies have found their niche in the wild west landscape of 21st century music performance. On Site Opera produces operas in site-specific locations and has been reviewed by us many times. Crypt Sessions produces a series of compelling works, all in the crypt of the church.  They are new to us.

There were two curtain-raisers that gave us a flavor of Mr. Kallor's writing style. The first short solo entitled "Where You Are" pleased us with it's ear-tickling melding of classical and jazz styles.

The second piece, entitled "Undercurrent", (premiered recently at SubCulture) was a three movement "sonata" for piano and cello which couldn't have been more different than the Debussy piece we heard two days ago at Music Talks. It seemed to be a dialogue between the percussive piano and the lyrical lines of the cello, beautifully played by Joshua Roman. The dialogue often seemed at cross purposes except for the lyrical central movement; we seem to always prefer the Adagio in any piece!  

The centerpiece of the evening was the premiere of Mr. Kallor's The Tell-Tale Heart. The two musicians were joined by mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Pojanowski who performed the story with fine English diction and dramatic intensity. We were amazed that this difficult work with its strange vocal lines had been committed to memory and we appreciate the effort. A music stand would have destroyed the carefully crafted illusion of madness created by Ms. Pojanowski.

The narrator of the story is a madman, a psychopathic murderer who tries to convince us of his sanity. Our diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenia due to the presence of delusions about the victim's eye and auditory hallucinations!  The narrator gives himself away, thinking that the police can hear the beating of the corpse's heart from under the floorboards but readers can assume it is his guilt producing the hallucination.

The performance was directed by Sarah Meyers with spooky lighting designed by Shawn Kaufman.

Having been thoroughly creeped out, it was quite a relief to hear the soothing Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt. We loved the part in which the piano played repetitive arpeggios in second inversion with the cello providing lyrical passages of ascending and descending scale passages. The overall effect was a peaceful meditative one that calmed down our rapid heartbeat.  And we lived to tell the tale!

(c) meche kroop

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