Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Fall Opera Season beyond the Met

The new opera season will start soon and, while we are excited about the Met’s program (and bought tickets for 15 shows so far), the NYC’s opera scene goes way beyond it. Here’s an overview of the non-Met performances we’ll be looking forward to this fall:

Wilson meets Shakespeare meets Wainwright
Photo credit: Lesley Leslie-Spinks

BAM’s Next Wave Festival offers a collaboration between director Robert Wilson and composer Rufus Wainwright to transpose 25 Shakespeare Sonnets into music, set to “everything from medieval German Minnesang to cabaret rock”. While not strictly operatic, we enjoyed Wilson’s work in Einstein on the Beach and The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, so this one, too, may be an interesting experiment. Berliner Ensemble will perform. October 7-12 at BAM Opera House.

We’re always ready to discover a new Donizetti and are thankful to Amore Opera for showing his rarely performed opera semiseria La Zingara. Good old L'Elisir D’Amore is also a sure pleasure. Both operas are scheduled for dates in October TBA at the Connelly Theater.

Gioacchino Rossini
And speaking of non-mainstream bel canto, we’re in for a Rossini treat, with performances of L’Italiana in Algeri (by Utopia Opera) and Il Turco in Italia (by Juilliard). It will be interesting to catch these two in the same month as the 22-year-old Rossini composed Il Turco only a year after the successful premiere of L’Italiana. This second work stirred so much animosity that the 1814 Milan public accused the composer of cheating them, given the similarity between the two works. Let’s see what the NYC public thinks this November. Utopia Opera:  November 14-15 at the Lang Recital Hall (Hunter College) – Juilliard: November 19, 21 and 23 in Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

The first one of the two-fold Rossini bill this November
Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival proposes innovative and often experimental takes on traditional works. Of particular interest this year we flag two sacred music performances and one Romantic song cycle. Peter Sellars will stage Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion at the always-exciting Park Avenue Armory space. The performance will eliminate the separation between artist and audience, with “musicians and singers moving amongst each other.” Music by the Berliner Philharmoniker, with notable singers such as Eric Owens, Mark Padmore and Christian Gerhaher. October 7-8 at Park Avenue Armory.

Image credit: Park Avenue Armory
Another oratorio-ish White Light Festival experience will be How like an angel, where six acrobats will be soaring over the audience to the overtones of sacred song in a collaboration between Australian avant-garde circus troupe Circa and early-music choir I Fagiolini. Music will range from Renaissance motets, medieval monody, South African gospel, to contemporary music. Everything will be set in a church, of course. October 22-24 at the James Memorial Chapel, Union Theological Seminar.

Circus acrobats and sacred music
Photo credit: Chris Taylor
After being blown away by William Kentridge’s hypnotic animations for Shostakovich’s The Nose at the Met, we cannot but run to get our tickets for the South African artist’s new work of mixed-media landscapes for Schubert’s Romantic song cycle Winterreise. Baritone Matthias Goerne (who got many accolades last year for his last minute Wozzeck) will perform. November 11 at Alice Tully Hall.

Schubert meets Kentridge
Photo credit: Lukas Beck
Regina Opera’s Rigoletto was one of our great discoveries this year. Who knew such great Verdian talent was hiding in a church theater in Sunset Park. They will be doing another Verdi (Un Ballo in Maschera) in November. We’ll be there, ready to weep. November 22-23 and 29-30 at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (OLPH) Auditorium.

And of course one cannot go wrong with the always wonderful Joyce Di Donato. The mezzo soprano will be in charge of a “Perspectives” series at Carnegie Hall and she’ll be uncovering rarely performed baroque works such as Handel’s Alcina with an opera in concert on October 26 and Vivaldi/Rossini/Hahn arias in a recital evocatively named “A journey through Venice” on November 4.

Diva Di Donato
Photo credit: Yankee Diva website
Image credit: One World Symphony
One World Symphony caught our eye with their pop culture flavoring of operatic recitals. Their marketing is catchy and cleverly aims at making classical themes universal and contemporary . An example of their “operasodes” (operatic episodes?) is “New Girls,” inspired by an apparently popular TV series - though we confess we are not familiar with it so perhaps we're not the targeted audience here. Regardless of the funky packaging, the show promises to deliver “some of opera’s most vivacious divas in their own life and love endeavors: feisty females like Adele (Die Fledermaus) or Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro), starlit scene stealers like Musetta (La Bohème), heart-melting heroines like Mimi (La Bohème) or Contessa (Figaro), or the ultimate new girl like The Merry Widow.” We’re all for sexing up opera to spread it to the wider younger crowds and we’ll be curious to see if the level of the performance will be up to the marketing one. October 26-27 at Holy Apostles (296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street, Manhattan).

We bid Natalie Dessay’s adieu to the operatic stage a year ago, and cannot be more excited that she’s apparently taking a break from her new jazz career to perform Le Concert d’Astrée, an all Handel program (including her dazzling Cleopatra from Giulio Cesare) at Alice Tully Hall. It’s a concert setting so probably no Bollywood dancing as in David McVicar’s production but still it should be grand. November 30 at Alice Tully Hall.

Our favorite Cleopatra
Photo credit: Marty Sohl / The Metropolitan Opera

- Lui & Lei

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