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.

Friday, October 12, 2018


 Joshua Jeremiah as Frankenstein's Monster (Photo by Kevin Condon)

We are in the catacombs of Greenwood Cemetery, ready to be creeped out by another site specific work presented by Andrew Ousley as the last entry in a season called The Angel’s Share.  And if you are curious about that name, please see our earlier reviews.  Mr. Ousley seems to have a taste for the spooky, considering his other series in the subterranean Crypt of the Church of the Intercession.

The presentation lasted slightly over an hour, less than the time it took us to get to this remote corner of Brooklyn. The summer event had allowed us to stroll uphill through the verdant and peaceful resting place for New York notables. But tonight we were brought uphill by trolley, following a whiskey tasting, of which we did not partake. Theatrical judgment requires sobriety!

And what a theatrical evening it was, stimulating to eye and ear. We had composer Gregg Kallor at the piano, introducing sketches of an opera he is developing based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 Gothic tale Frankenstein. The scene we heard was the part in which the “monster” confronts his creator, the scientist Victor Frankenstein. 

His frightening appearance has caused him to be shunned by society. We couldn’t keep ourself from thinking about the “aliens” in our midst, those who arrive in our country without knowing the language, trying to learn and get accepted. But this monster knows he will never be accepted, although he has been hanging around a nice family, observing their customs and learning to read from their books.  Only the blind old grandfather accepted him.

He is demanding that Frankenstein create a mate for him; in a blackmail move, he threatens to visit his creator on Frankenstein's wedding night; we know that it won’t be a friendly visit!  Things go downhill from there but that part of the opera has yet to be written. Mr. Kallor’s piano was accompanied by Joshua Roman’s cello. 

The music was filled with anxiety as befits the tale, although we preferred the rare lyrical passage. The libretto was a bit to literary for our taste and seemed awkward to sing, although baritone Joshua Jeremiah sang powerfully as the monster and acted the part every bit as well as he sang. In the role of the frightened Frankenstein, tenor Brian Cheney was similarly effective. As  “the bride of Frankenstein”, Jennifer Johnson Cano made a brief and welcome appearance, trying to comfort her fiancé.

After a piano interlude celebrating Leonard Bernstein, Ms. Cano performed the chilling piece The Tell-Tale Heart—Edgar Allen Poe’s 1843 short story, a monologue by a murderous psychopath whose guilt leads him to have auditory hallucinations of the sound of a beating heart coming from under the floorboards where he buried the dismembered body. We heard this piece before at one of the Crypt performances; the review can be found through the search bar.

Although horror is our least favorite genre, we must admit that Ms. Cano’s intense and self-effacing performance held our attention and drove the audience to wild applause. For our taste, we have preferred her performances of more lyrical material, performances we have often reviewed. She is indeed a wonder of versatility!

Sarah Meyers directed the evening and Tláloc López-Watermann provided the highly effective and evocative lighting. Fay Eva’s costume design was just right, with the monster’s face mostly hidden by a hoodie.

The evening had a powerful effect; we were too shaken to walk down the dark pathway to the exit and were happy to ride the trolley!

Happy Halloween!  We got a jump start on ya’!

(c) meche kroop

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