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.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


William Remmers

It is always a thrill to learn more about the people of whom one is fond.  We know William Remmers as the producer/director/conductor of Utopia Opera, the unique small company that does such a fine job presenting operas selected and voted upon by the audience. (All reviews archived here.) We surely had a clue that Mr. Remmers' outsize personality and droll presentation were stageworthy but we didn't know to what extent.

We never knew that he has been a member of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of New York, which has been around for 80 years; he has been president of this society for the past year.  You Savoyards out there would do well to look into this group which meets several times yearly at the Community Church of New York on East 35th St.

That Mr. Remmers could entertain an audience for a couple hours came as no surprise but the variety of his talent is astonishing.  He sings, he acts, he plays piano, and he dances; he is a veritable one man show. We only know one cabaret artist who can keep an audience this spellbound all by himself, and that is Kim David Smith whose talents are different from Mr. Remmers.

Mr. Remmers is unfailingly versatile and endlessly funny. He is an expert with patter songs, of which W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan have created so many. He is a tall drink of water and thin as electrical tape. His body and face seem made of rubber.

Much of the G&S material in last night's performance, waggishly entitled "The First Annual William Remmers Memorial Concert", came from the delightful 1882 Iolanthe, which found G&S at the height of their compositional power.  "The Law is the True Embodiment" was a smashing way to open the program and "It May Not Be" brought the enchanting evening to a satisfying close.

There were also selections from the 1887 operetta "Ruddigore", the 1888 "The Yeomen of the Guard" and the 1896 "The Grand Duke". The audience comprised mainly members of the G&S Society who knew all the words and gleefully sang along.

With great versatility, Mr. Remmers included lots of other material.  In fine French he sang "Qu'ils Sont Doux" from Gounod's 1858 Le Médécin Malgré Lui and Jaques Brel's 1959 "La Valse à Mille Temps".  And what's this?  The marvelous "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" from Lerner & Loewe's 1956 musical My Fair Lady!  Could anything top Henry Higgins???  Well, yes.  What about "I'm Not Getting Married Today" from Sondheim's 1970  Company, usually sung by a woman.  Never mind that, Mr. Remmers did it justice.

More surprises dazzled us.  We didn't know that Mr. Remmers is also a composer and he entranced us by sitting at the piano and playing a number of compositions from his album Seven Songs for Seven Women.  Apparently he is working on another album and played still more compositions; watch out for Shades of Violet!

When Mr. Remmers was not at the piano, the role of accompanist was played by Thomas Z. Shepard who did a fine job.

(c) meche kroop

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