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, November 10, 2023


Heartbeat Opera Gala Drag Show--"The Golden Cock"

Our beloved Heartbeat Opera has been undergoing major changes for the past couple years.  We are excited about an upcoming Eugene Onegin; they can be expected to put a most original stamp on it, as they usually do. We will withhold judgment until we see/hear it.  But there is never any doubt in our mind about the joyful entertainment provided at their annual drag show.

What we love about them comprises the wildness and originality of the costumes, the imaginative script, the bawdy gay humor, the clever play on words, the excellence of the musical values, and the sneaky topicality.

With Russian operas and Russian singers being cancelled (both literally and figuratively), how completely outrageous it was to do a send up of Rimsky-Korsakov's final opera The Golden Cockerel, composed in 1907 but not performed until after his death. It is rarely produced but six years ago we had the pleasure of seeing it twice! It is the story of an autocratic king who invades an innocent country (!) and gets advice from a bird.  The music is just as glorious as one might expect and the not-so-hidden message was as true today as it was in the early part of the 20th c. and six years ago.

The story was, of course, fractured and splintered to provide opportunities for typical Heartbeat hijinx and double entendres. Rimsky-Korsakov's music received lots of stage time but so did several other Russian composers. Our companion joined me in identifying most of them including Rachmaninoff's "vocalise" and Tatiana's waltz from Eugene Onegin. We also heard some Rossini for good measure.

Musical values are always excellent with Heartbeat Opera. The chamber orchestra comprised Co-Musical Directors Jacob Ashworth (violin) and Daniel Schlosberg (piano) with Angela Shankar playing clarinet and saxophone and Deanne Cirielli enchanting us with her harp. It was impressive that four musicians could create such a full sound, but with Mr. Schlosberg doing the arrangements, we would expect no less.

The singing was exceptional as well with bass John Taylor Ward towering over everyone else. Tenor Elliot Paige is another "regular" that we always look forward to seeing and hearing.  Countertenor Daniel Moody made a fine showing as well. The female voices had less stage time but were also excellent--soprano Ariana Wehr and contralto Sara Couden. Special guest artist John Holiday provided a rare treat as well with his inimitable countertenor

The show was created by  Mr. Ashworth and Nico Krell who also directed. The extravagant costumes were designed by David Quinn. The Master of Ceremonies was Maxim Ibadov. One thing about the annual drag show that impresses us is how well everyone works together; the ensemble feel is unmistakeable. Everyone seems to be having fun and this mood is infectious. The audience was filled with smiling faces.  Yours could be among them if you read this in time.  There will be two shows at Roulette tonight, Friday November 10th. It is well worth a trip to Brooklyn. In these troubled times, there is nothing like gay humor to lift one's spirits!

© meche kroop


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