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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Cree Carrico and Jamison Livsey
As part of Opera America's Emerging Artist Recital Series, we heard a riveting recital by Chautauqua Operas Young Artist Recital Finalists soprano Cree Carrico and collaborative pianist Jamison Livsey.  Most vocal recitals these days are presented in a limited variety of forms.  Sometimes, the singer chooses sets of songs from a number of different composers; sometimes the focus is on one particular language; sometimes the focus is on one composer alone, as was the case with last season's Schubert&Co. recitals.  Last night's recital was unique in that the artists focused on a particular character from Shakespeare's Hamlet--Ophelia, Hamlet's abandoned love interest who drowns herself.  Indeed, the work was entitled Yesterday I stopped Killing Myself: The Ophelia Project.

We are familiar with Ms. Carrico from her performances at Manhattan School of Music as Marie-Antoinette in John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles and as Jenny in Kurt Weill's Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny.  The Ophelia Project gave her the opportunity to show completely different aspects of her many talents.  The work seemed to tackle the many colors of Ophelia's madness as interpreted by a variety of composers.

The program opened with "A vos jeux, mes amis" from Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet, a mad scene to rival that in Lucia de Lammermoor.  Ms. Carrico appeared barefoot and wild-eyed conveying the madness not just with her diamantine voice in the elaborate coloratura but with her entire body.  The intensity of the performance was overwhelming and one could absolutely not allow one's gaze to waver.  It was so convincing that we imagined Ms. C. had dredged up that pain from her own personal experience.  (We were relieved to learn that it was just good acting and that she is a happy young woman with no evidence of a broken heart or suicidal tendencies).

The remainder of the work comprised Drei Lieder der Ophelia (Op. 67) by Richard Strauss,  Jake Heggie's Songs and Sonnets to Ophelia with texts by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and songs by Ned Rorem and Sergei Rachaninoff that were pressed into service, mainly by references to flowers.  This madwoman tore flowers into shreds which she showered onto the audience, carried on with audience members, threw chairs around and interacted with Mr. Livsey who entered into the spirit of the piece.  She donned red jewelry and red patent-leather pumps, stacked red apples on chairs and delivered Ophelia's monologue into a cell phone--a jarring image and yet making fine sense of Shakespeare's text.

We liked the alteration of intense passionate songs with some quiet gentle ones.  What we missed was some rationale for dividing up the song cycles and interlacing them.  It certainly pulled the work into the realm of the avant-garde which we did not mind at all; we just wanted more of a dramatic arc that has not been made clear.  This is clearly a work in progress and as Ms. Carrico works with her director Christopher Mirto, we hope this arc of madness will emerge and give a sense of madness developing.

© meche kroop

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