|The Spirit World--Magda Gartner and her Fairies|
The birth of a new opera company is always a cause for rejoicing but when their debut is as outstanding as that of Gramercy Opera, we find ourselves rather over the moon.
Well actually we found ourselves in a charming verdant private garden on E. 61st St. which had been decorated with strings of twinkling lights and colorful flowers, both nature made and man made. This perfectly suited an entertainment that involves two worlds--the human world and the spirit world.
Leave it to two opera singers to accomplish the impossible! Major props to Magda Gartner and Allison McAuley who joined forces to create Gramercy Opera.
What we experienced with such complete joy had very little to do with what was presented in 1692 as The Fairy Queen, a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell, loosely based on Shakespeare's late 16th c. comedy.
What we experienced was the result of an impressive show of creativity by Director Brittany Goodwin who also adapted William Shakespeare's text from Midsummer Night's Dream and contributed some spoken dialogue of her own. We were wildly impressed!
The music, of course, was by Henry Purcell and was performed by a chamber orchestra using original instruments. There was a string quartet augmented by two trumpets (almost unrecognizable to those accustomed to the modern trumpet) and a pair of oboes d'amore and a harpsichord, all conducted by David Stech. Even without the enrapturing production design by Maria Torffield we would have enjoyed the music.
And what a production it was! Coming in at just under two hours, the production excised the little Indian changeling, the framing device of the marriage of the Duke of Athens and Hippolyta, as well as the gathering of rustics producing a play as entertainment for the festivities involved with said marriage.
Wisely Ms. Goodwin placed the emphasis on the interface between the human world and the spirit world. The humans flee into the woods to escape paternal interference but meet interference from the spirit world. It rests upon Puck's naughtiness to baffle and confuse the lovers--until he finally establishes order.
The cast was flawless. Mezzo-soprano Magda Gartner was perfect as Titania, angry at Oberon for his philandering. As Oberon, baritone Angky Budiardjono had a marvelous sound and exotic look just right for the part. His primary interaction was with the Puck of soprano Chelsea Feltman who both introduced the opera and brought it to a successful conclusion. She was, well, "puckish" in her compelling characterization. She enchanted us!
The fairies included the rich-voiced mezzo-soprano Kat Liu as Cobweb and soprano La Toya Lewis as Mustardseed, who harmonized beautifully in their duet. Sopranos Rachel Duval, Jaeyeon Kim, Megan Brunning, and Sara Lin Yoder added to the fairy fun, along with baritone Frank D. Fainer and tenor Carlos J. Jiminez who sang and danced the role of Cupid.
Now what of the humans! Canadian soprano Allison McAuley was totally convincing as the desperate Helena pursuing the rejecting Demetrius of tenor Daniel Byerly. As "fair Hermia" we heard the lovely soprano Emily Peragine who defied her father to elope with the Lysander of baritone Joey Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez had a great moment as he tried to persuade Hermia to lie closer to him.
We also enjoyed baritone Paul La Rosa's performance as Bottom, who wore his donkey-head quite rakishly.
Did we say how superb all the voices were? We guess we did.
And now to discuss the production which involved some of the most imaginative costuming and makeup one could imagine. We suspect that imagination was in greater supply than funds but one could not tell that from the colorful results.
Ms. Goodwin's direction involved some stunning imagery that lingers in the mind's eye as much as that of Frederick Ashton's ballet The Dream. There were so many magnificent moments both scenic and choreographic that we find ourselves running out of words to praise.
Ms. Goodwin shared with us her casting method which involved asking those auditioning to improvise. That probably explains how integrated the performers were.
We urge our dear readers to see and hear for themselves. We are sure you will be as enchanted as we were. This weekend is sold out but hopefully you will find tickets for next weekend. If you succeed you will be the happier for it.
(c) meche kroop