Might there be a lover of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan here in New York City who is unaware of the multi-talented William Remmers and Utopia Opera? If so, it pains us to inform you that last night's survey of songs from all of the G&S canon will not likely be repeated. That being said, we hope it will be. Indeed, if it were being presented tonight we would joyfully attend once more.
What a banquet of goodies, with one marvelous song seamlessly following another in a sequence that worked magnificently as a live "playlist"; the order of numbers seemed randomly determined but included something from every one of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's enormous output.
Why do we so love those Savoyards? For the same reason that most of the United States adores South Park. We relish seeing the skewering of politicians and political bodies. We love hearing witty words composed around silly plots satirizing contemporary culture. And, although the average audience member may not be consciously aware of the perfect marriage of music and text, we feel it in a way that we do not feel when sitting through a contemporary opera with its prosy libretto. The rhymes are nearly always brilliantly devised.
It is most interesting that Remmers can sail through the many patter songs faster than one can read the projected titles, for which we would like to credit Alyson Sheehan. The titles were cleverly arranged on the page and were projected in perfect time with the singing. The witty words go by so fast that one misses a lot, not to mention the multiple references to British institutions and historical figures of whom we are ignorant. Significantly, our companion, for whom English is but a second language, had a wonderful time enjoying the rhythm and sound of Gilbert's text and Sullivan's music without knowing any of the references.
Whilst giving credit, Erica Rome did a yeoman's job (🤦sorry about that) of accompanying on the piano . The chorus, comprising Heather Bobeck, Karina Vartanian, Cate Webber-Curry, Colin Safley, Marc Shepherd, and Zachary Tirgan provided the tuneful and coherent backup.
However, the evening belonged to Remmers. We know the artist primarily as the Founder and Artistic Director of the singular Utopia Opera--and also as conductor of their orchestra. We have heard of the artist's forays into the world of cabaret, film making, and also musical composition.. Tonight we appreciated Remmers as a performer, singing and acting a succession of characters of a diverse nature. What artistry at creating scenes , performing all the parts. Indeed, in the second part of the evening, we enjoyed an entire scene from Ruddigore in which Robin confronts his ancestors about the family necessity of creating evil deeds on a daily basis.. Remmers has a long limbed and limber body as well as an expressively mobile face that make this theatrical legerdemain succeed.
In "Oh, foolish fay" from Iolanthe, Remmers created a Queen of the Fairies without benefit of costume, using only vocal coloration and physical posture. Although dozens (yes, dozens) of numbers seemed more difficult, like the patter songs for which G&S were renowned, it was this aria that touched us most deeply. We couldn't help thinking of grand opera in which a dazzling display of coloratura fireworks may be followed by a limpid legato.
There was one talent that Remmers displayed that took us by surprise--that of a rather good guitarist, self-accompanying for several numbers.
One of our favorite numbers is always "I've Got a Little List" ("As Someday It May Happen") from The Mikado in which tradition permits wanton invention, rewriting the text to suit the political moment. As an amusing diversion, Dear Reader, we invite you to make your own list of people who "never will be missed". Clearly Remmers is someone who would be missed and we are so happy not to have missed this delightful show.
© meche kroop