|Mr. Liz Bouk at Dixon Place|
What an astonishing performer! Mr. Liz is on a courageous journey and his performances invite the audience to share in his journey. Yes, this beautiful person has chosen the label "transgendered" and has come out as a man, a very beautiful man, but a man just the same, preferring masculine pronouns, a request which we honor. We ourself do not like labels and prefer to experience him as a unique being with a striking mezzo-soprano voice and the ability to portray "breeches roles" with preternatural artistry.
To begin at the "old" beginning, Mr. Liz first came to our attention five years ago as Elizabeth Bouk, and we have reviewed him at least a half dozen times or more since then with Utopia Opera, dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, and Gramercy Opera. He has brought life to the brutally raped Lucretia, the abandoned Augusta Tabor, a witch in Macbeth, Count Almaviva's latest conquest, and Strauss' Komponist. If you put "Elizabeth Bouk" in the search bar, you can read these archived reviews. Some of those roles were revived last night in his new show, but we are getting ahead of ourself.
Having come out as a man, our first hearing of Mr. Liz was two months ago in a show you can read about if you insert "Liz Bouk" in the search bar. That will detail his life story in detail. Last night he was very open about the decision to avoid hormonal or surgical intervention. Preservation of his voice is the most important issue and with that we can heartily agree.
Still, what is more important than the vocal quality is the ability to connect with the audience and to convey the important message that we are each entitled to express ourselves in a way that is authentic and honest. Our culture fortunately allows us this freedom and we have the choice to take advantage of this freedom.
Mr. Liz' expressiveness is so colorful and varied that we have had the very devil of a time paring down a hundred photos we took to the ten we can post on Facebook. We refer you to our FB page Voce di Meche to see the ten we ultimately selected.
Curating songs for the show must have been a great deal of fun. Mr. Liz was able to revisit many of the arias we enjoyed before. The show opened with a clever and funny song by Zina Goldrich called "The Alto's Lament" in which a mezzo-soprano expresses her boredom with the line she is given to sing.
Then we heard the aria from Douglas Moore's Ballad of Baby Doe in which Augusta Tabor receives a loving letter and a pair of gloves from her husband Horace--and learns that they were meant for his mistress.
Later, he sang "Warm as the Autumn Light", Horace's baritone aria from the same opera. Who else beside Mr. Liz could have performed both roles with beauty and meaning and with not a hint of irony!
As Octavian, he sang "Wie du wärst" from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, a role in which we had not heard him. Any opera company would do well to snap him up, for the beautiful tone and the convincing presentation.
From Felix Jarrar's Tabula Rasa, we heard Bea Goodwin's smartly written aria about Dada for the character Tristan Tzara and Hannah's aria "Three Words" from As One, written by Laura Kaminsky, libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed. That opera is about the converse conversion--a male to female transgendered person trying to find her identity.
"Somewhere" from Bernstein's West Side Story is a plea for finding a place where one feels safe and fulfilled. We venture to offer that Mr. Liz is well on his way to such a place.
The closing number was upbeat and fun--"I'm a Stranger Here Myself" from Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus. Can we find ourselves strangers in strange places and yet find that "somewhere". We think so!
Excellent piano accompaniment was provided by Kathryn Olander who played for the last show as well. A fine team they are!
(c) meche kroop