|The cast of Queens of the Night: Mozart in Space|
Our customary Halloween Party lost out to Heartbeat Opera; when Co-Artistic Directors Ethan Heard and Louisa Proske plan an event, it takes precedence over anything else we might be doing. We know of no other organization in NYC that has its finger on the pulse of opera-curious young people. It gives us great pleasure to hear a sell-out crowd of 20-somethings hootin' and hollerin' for opera.
How does Heartbeat Opera do this? Somehow, without diluting the art form, they manage to expand it to include elements that appeal to the young. They choose casual venues (this time the wonderful performance space National Sawdust in trendy Billyburg).
They cast excellent young performers (sopranos Jamilyn Manning-White and Marie Marquis, mezzo-soprano Kristin Gornstein, tenor Jordan Weatherston Pitts, and baritone John Taylor Ward). They have a crew of talented designers (Jon Carter, Miodrag Guberinic, Reid Thompson, Oliver Wason, and Joey Moro). They have excellent Co-Music Directors (Jacob Ashworth and Daniel Schlosberg.
The singing is topnotch and Mozart's music was arranged for string quartet plus bass and keyboard-- which worked well in the wide shallow space with a wide shallow stage. The musicians were clustered at one side of the stage with the rest of the stage available for all manner of fun stagecraft.
The concept was something about aliens in space with the robot being portrayed by the petite dancer/choreographer Emma Jaster. There was liberal use made of the language of space travel in the script--re-entry and lift-off, control panels and pods, aliens and robots. Costuming and make-up (by MAC) was extravagant and candy-colored wigs completed the colorful imagery. There was unlimited imagination and creativity in evidence.
We got fresh takes on many Mozart standards. If the genius were alive today we think he would have gotten a kick out of Papagena and Papageno discovering sex through touching elbows. He would have laughed out loud seeing Tamino in a dress and wig. He would have thrilled to the fantabulous costume of the dragon, portrayed by Taurean Everett.
But what would he have made of the dragon lip-syncing to Aretha Franklin's version of "Nessun dorma"? We were giggling inside imagining him saying something racy about "that Puccini fella".
Well, everything else was Mozart and if the Puccini got a huge hand, Ms. Manning-White's Queen of the Night garnered an even larger one.
The event was a benefit and even the fund-raising effort was memorable. We watched a captivating performance that raised $2000 in less than 10 minutes! This young company (just over 2 years old) deserves our support. The future of opera lies with young people and they are drawn in by adventure, creativity, color, imagination, and vitality. Heartbeat Opera has it all.
Bizet's Carmen and Puccini's Madama Butterfly will be re-invented by Heartbeat in May. We will be there! See you there!
(c) meche kroop