Sunday, December 21, 2014
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Thursday, December 18, 2014
|Eric Idle, Victoria Clark, William Ferguson, Lauren Worsham and Marc Kudish|
photo by Erin Baiano
“Tis the season to be jolly... and jolly we were Monday night at Carnegie Hall when the Collegiate Chorale presented the New York premiere of NOT THE MESSIAH (He’s a Very Naughty Boy). Inspired by Monty Python’s The Life of Brian and written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, the work can be taken as a parody of the life of Jesus, in the form of an oratorio. But what an oratorio! We lost count of how many different styles of music we heard—mariachi, flamenco, country, Doo-wop, spirituals and a quartet of bagpipers, members of New York Metro Pipe Band.
Not only is it the season for jollity but it also seems to be the week for parody and gender bending. Not only have we enjoyed the parodies of Christmas songs brought to us by New York Festival of Song (see prior review) but also the parody of ballet brought to us by Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo in which men get on point and get us to giggle over every classical ballet trope.
In order to create effective parody one must have great affection for the thing one is satirizing. We are reminded of the late (but not forgotten) La Gran Scena Opera Company that parodied great divas with great affection.
In this case, the Mother of the non-Messiah is named Mandy and her baby, fathered by a Roman, is named Brian. Broadway star Victoria Clark, a mezzo-soprano, sang the role of Mandy with her usual pizazz and opera star William Ferguson lent his sweet tenor to the titular role. His love interest (Yes!) named Judith was winningly sung by soprano Lauren Worsham who slips into operatic roles as easily as she does into cabaret and Broadway. Ms. Worsham and Mr. Ferguson sang so beautifully together we mentally cast them as Candide and Cunegonde.
Eric Idle narrated and sang while successful contributions came from bass Marc Kudisch. The stage was filled with the splendid Orchestra of St. Luke’s backed up by the enormous Collegiate Chorale whose singing was so perfectly in unison and so imbued with fine diction that we understood every word. More credit to Ted Sperling, Director and Conductor!
Not so with much of the other singing which was “enhanced” by body mics rendering much of the very clever dialogue muffled. This was the only flaw in an otherwise sensational evening of broad satire and belly laughs. Happily, Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Worsham managed to be understood. When lyrics are that clever we want to hear every word. Titles would have been welcome.
In “We Love Sheep”, Lynne Marie Rosenberg came onstage with three very realistic looking sheep who opened their mouths to sing along, creating an unparalleled moment of glee.
Mr. Ferguson’s solo “I Want to Change the World” was incredibly moving and Mr. Idle’s “I Want to Be a Girl” was incredibly hilarious. Mr. Kudish had a very funny song “What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us”, a good satire of colonialism.
Brian wants freedom from Roman rule and peace for his people; he joins The People’s Front of Judea and meets Judith. They are caught in flagrante delicto by his mother. Brian is just a very naughty boy, or so says his mother. Judith sings the lovely “You’re the One”. The people are convinced he is the Messiah. He denies it. They insist. They find his sandal and, in a Cinderella moment, track him down. Mr. Kudish was particularly funny in “Hail to the Shoe”.
Nothing is sacred to Monty Python nor to Mr. Idle and Mr. Du Prez. Even the crucifixion becomes an object for laughter. Mr. Idle portrays a poor guy who gets crucified every morning and taken down every night. The closing song was “Always Look on the Bright Side”.
(c) meche kroop
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
|Angela Mannino, Matthew Tuell and Tyler Putnam in Markheim (photo by Tina Buckman)|
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Friday, December 12, 2014
Thursday, December 11, 2014
|Babette Hierholzer, Elizabeth Wimmer and Nils Neubert|
Monday, December 8, 2014
Sunday, December 7, 2014
Friday, December 5, 2014
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Saturday, November 22, 2014
|Jason Stearns, Hugo Vera, and Kian Freitas|
|Stella Zambalis and Jason Stearns|
The Martha Cardona Theater has been in existence for about five years--growing in stature and reach while accumulating a group of singers that deserve to be widely heard.
Finally, Founder and Artistic Director Daniel Cardona was ready to produce a full-length opera with a full orchestra.
For this landmark event he chose one of our favorite operas--Puccini's Tosca--and he chose to present it in a semi-staged production at the mid-sized and acoustically excellent Merkin Concert Hall. By semi-staged we mean that there was minimal scenery but there was no shortage of convincing acting.
To present Tosca, one needs a larger-than-life soprano to play the eponymous heroine who is herself larger-than-life. A true diva, soprano Stella Zambalis exhibited such familiarity with the nuances of the role that she actually became the 19th c. diva in love with the painter Cavaradossi. With a sizable soprano and convincing acting one could not have asked for more. To see her attack the evil Scarpia was to tremble in one's seat.
The role of Scarpia was performed by baritone Jason Stearns who captured our ears (if not our hearts) with his oily menace. He made the perfect villain and we would have been happy to see him die, were it not for the fact that we wouldn't hear his voice in Act III!
Bass Matthew Curran made a fine Angelotti, even though onstage only briefly. His voice had a fine quality and his acting was convincing.
Even more impressive was bass-baritone Kian Freitas who created a most believable Sacristan; he became a real character, a priest who snooped in the basket of food and exhibited a number of other small believable gestures. Previously unknown to us, we wish to hear more of him.
Tenor Hugo Vera sang well but over-acted the part of Spoletta, over-reacting to every nuance of everyone else's lines. We picture Spoletta as more contained, more severe and less sneering. Actually, baritone Samuel McDonald was far more believable as Sciarrone and sang with lovely tone and phrasing.
Lead tenor Ta'u Pupu'a as Cavaradossi was a bit disappointing. We have heard him before and he was not his best for this performance. He seemed to be pushing his upper register and lacked the requisite chemistry with Ms. Zambalis in Act I. He did improve over the course of the evening and was most touching in Act III as he faced death.
No one was credited with Stage Direction and one got the impression that each singer contributed ideas. Most of them worked well. We are quite sure that Mr. Cardona himself had a lot of directorial input. We forgot that there was no church, no Castel San'Angelo. The character's interaction told us everything.
We particularly enjoyed the duet between Mr. Freitas and Mr. Pupu'a in Act I, the end of Act II when Tosca stabs Scarpia, and the interlude before Act III when Cavaradossi stands silently contemplating his anticipated death. Much can be communicated with body language.
There was no problem with diction. Every word was clear such that when the titles disappeared in Act III, we barely noticed.
Maestro Brian Holman's baton brought the onstage orchestra together for Puccini's glorious music; we were particularly fond of Melanie Genin's harp.
It was a fine evening; the house was packed and the entire cast received a lengthy standing ovation which they richly deserved.
We are looking forward to more fine work from The Martha Cardona Theater.
(c) meche kroop