|THE HOT BOX GIRLS (photo by Travis Chantar)
Could sex sell opera? That was the question on our mind before attending last night's performance of L'Opera Burlesque at the intimate and glamorous venue of Duane Park. To put this to the test, we invited a gentleman friend who had never seen or heard an opera.
A further question plagued us. Would we, devoted operaphile, be distracted by the extra ingredient? Would nudity diminish the artistic impact? You won't have to read to the end of the review to learn the answer.
Our friend wants to hear more opera and we enjoyed the show enormously. A woman can be talented as a singer and also skilled as an ecdysiast. We are never surprised by multi-talented people. One of our dearest friends is both ballet dancer and actress.
Had the voices been second rate we would have been rather judgmental but, truth to tell, each performer displayed superb vocal skills and lost nothing by shedding her clothes. And what clothes!
Thanks to splendid costuming by Angela Huff, these lovely ladies began each aria in period costume and ended in pasties and g-string. If one had closed one's eyes, one would have experienced an unamplified recital of favorite arias but one would have missed some visual delights. Not all young opera singers could pull this off but clearly these gals have multiple assets, no pun intended.
The most unforgettable performance was a fan dance performed by Trixie La Fée (Francesca Caviglia) who wielded red ostrich feathers in a gorgeously graceful manner during which mezzo-soprano Zara Zuela (Maria Elena Armijo) sang "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns.
Ms. Caviglia showed her vocal chops most gloriously in "V'adoro pupille" from Händel's Giulio Cesare, leaving her slinky gown behind to wind up in nothing more than body jewelry.
Our favorite number by Dixie DeLight (Kacey Cardin) was "Ah! Non credea mirarti" from Vincenzo Bellini's bel canto masterpiece La Sonnambula in which our diva entered in a trancelike state, strewing rosepetals.
Sean D'Leer (Melanie Long) opened the program with the popular "Una voce poco fa" from Gioacchino Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The elaborate wig came off along with the period costume.
The male roles were assumed by one Sir Lance-a-lot (Bradley Lassiter) who did justice to "O vin, dissipe la tristesse" from Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet, while stripping down to his skivvies.
For the grand finale, we heard the Champagne Chorus from Johann Straus II's Die Fledermaus in which the cast members circulated around the room toasting with audience members. What fun!
Accompanying on the piano was Seth Weinstein, whose nom de scène was Count Von Bang-it-out. His versatility was impressive as he readily switched from classical mode to Broadway mode. Hostess for the evening was Cookie Cavendish (Charlotte Thun-Hoherstein).
If this description tempts you, you can learn more at www.lOperaBurlesque.com and www.HotBoxGirls.com. We understand there are frequent performances at Duane Park and in Europe, often with a rotating cast of "hot girls" and a different selection of arias.
The concept is that of Rebecca Greenstein of Opera Moderne and we are so glad she has taken us out of our comfort zone. The audience was young and we applaud any and all means of bringing young people to opera. Bravissime tutte.
(c) meche kroop