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.

Monday, September 17, 2018


Matteo Fiorani as Narcissus (photo by Lora Robertson for Satellite Collective)

Satellite Collective’s deconstruction of the myth of Echo and Narcissus, seen Friday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Fisher Center, lasted barely over an hour. The reconstruction performed by us and our companion lasted at least twice as long. If not totally comprehensible, the performance was engaging and held our attention by means of some lovely dancing. To watch Matteo Fiorani in the role of Narcissus was unadulterated pleasure and the lithe and lovely Michaela Rae Mann made a fine counterpart in the danced role of the nymph Echo. The dancing might accurately be called modern ballet but was informed by hints of modern dance. Kudos to choreographer Norbert De La Cruz III. 

But this collaborative work also incorporated music by Aaron Severini which was always interesting in its orchestration (violin, double bass, flute, clarinet, bassoon, trombone, and percussion) and well played by Shouthouse, under the baton of Alex Burtzos. At times raucous and dissonant, there were also lovely quiet passages and we particularly admired the percussion of Brandon Ilaw. 

Wasted were the vocal gifts of soprano Christine Taylor Price and baritone Philip Stoddard (who also directed) who were given vocal lines lacking in melodic structure and “lyrics” which were not always intelligible, in spite of, or because of, the amplification.  These two artists have magnificent voices which we have reviewed multiple times; their natural voices can sail over a full symphony orchestra. We urge anyone who thinks that's what opera singers sound like to attend a recital or a traditional opera.

Writer Kevin Draper seems to have interpreted the myth in his own idiosyncratic manner but we were reminded of how common in both literature and opera is the theme of a woman torn apart when her beloved is responsible for the death of a member of her family. Think of Romeo and Juliet and Forza del Destino.

It was not clear how Echo’s brother died or in what manner Narcissus was responsible. Projection designer Simon Harding showed us some cars in the street.  Did Echo’s brother die in a car crash? Was Narcissus driving? We could not answer.

There were projections of mechanical objects and robots. Did this refer to Narcissus being an unfeeling person? We cannot answer that either. What left no doubt in our mind was that two robots with a red spot in the chest area symbolized love, and that streams of light flowing from head to head and pelvis to pelvis symbolized mental and physical attraction.

In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, the goddess Juno curses Echo for her loquaciousness by dooming her to only repeat the words of others. Indeed, Ms. Price in her sparse dialogue did repeat Mr. Stoddard’s words. At the end, however, when Narcissus wants Echo to tell the police he is innocent, she refuses to echo his words. We felt free to interpret that our own way.

There were three other excellent dancers—Timothy Stickney, Joslin Vezeau, and Tara Youngman. In the first scene, they wore capes and seemed to be animals that Narcissus was hunting. Later on, lavender colored long skirts were worn but we could not figure out the meaning. We would have to ask Keiko Voltaire the Costume Designer. We definitely liked the many layered loincloth worn by Mr. Fiorani which highlighted his very fine figure; for this we require no explanation!

Artistic Director Kevin Draper wrote the piece and designed the production.  His Satellite Collective “works at the intersection of dance, visual art, and music” and has been doing so for eight years and garnering awards and citations from the Borough of Brooklyn.

Readers who attended the production are invited to comment below and to attempt to explain the meaning that has eluded us.

© meche kroop

No comments:

Post a Comment