Gotham Chamber Opera at Poisson Rouge

Neal Goren Combines East and West

By: - Oct 03, 2012

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Gotham Chamber Opera: Orientale
In collaboration with Company XIV and MAYA
Featuring the artists of Gotham Chamber Opera

Neal Goren, Music Director
Austin McCormick, Stage Director
Grant Herreid, Associate Music Director
Zane Pihlstrom, Set and Costume Design

Maeve Höglund, soprano
Naomi O'Connell, mezzo-soprano
Zachary Altman, baritone
Michael Kelly, baritone
John Hadfield, percussion
Bridget Kibbey, harp
Sato Moughalian, flute

Neal Goren, piano and harpsichord
Grant Herreid, theorbo and baroque guitar
Nina Stern, chalumeau and recorder
Gotham Chamber Opera Early Instrument Ensemble.

Le Poisson Rouge,
New York
October 1, 3  8pm

Gotham Chamber Opera will reprise an evening of music on October 3rd at Le Poisson Rouge.  At the intersection of East and West. Orientale features Monteverdi's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, and also music by Rameau, Lully, Szymanowski, Delibes, Schumann, Bizet, and traditional Armenian music. The artists of Gotham Chamber Opera are joined by a baroque instrumental ensemble, the dancers of Company XIV, the flute-harp-percussion trio MAYA, Grant Herreid (theorbo and baroque guitar) and Nina Stern (chalumeau and recorder).

The stage at Poisson Rouge thrust out for the meeting of East and West. The performers were in thrust mode too.  From the first pavonne danced bare-chested instead of bustled up in the back, a contrarian view to classic forms was often on display.  When the dancers from Company XIV accompanied the singers, they added a visual line to the musical one, and emphasized the emotion of an aria or recitative.  The effect was delightful, moving and, at the right times, frightening.  The erotic and exotic in a special mix.  

Cultures like the Armenian sit on the fault line between East and West.  This interface was played twice by the skillful Nina Stern on the recorder and the chalumeau. Actually she played five different instruments in the course of the evening, her melodic lines from traditional Armenian songs floating across the room.  

Neal Goren, who heads the Gotham Chamber Opera, set pieces cheek to cheek that you would hardly have expected to fit seamlessly.  Surely when Zachary Altman, whose baritone is unusually constant and even, and yet ineffably moving, sang a Schumann song from Mrythen, only its beauty stood out.

Juicy red flowers and black torches filled the stage.  Although black and red were the predominant colors, they were interrupted from time to time by greys and yellows.  In a world premier of a percussion piece by John Hadfield, a member of Company XIV, Marisol Cabera, a dancer from Company XXIV brought a different take to the flamenco.  Instead of announcing, "I'm here. Come and get me," she offered herself up and seduced by suggestion.  

Over the years, Goren has brought us seldom heard pieces but also new performers to whom attention should be paid. Naomi O'Connell enchanted as a last minute sub this evening.  All the singers not only had extraordinary vocal instruments, but stage presence that would wow Broadway audiences. 

Kelly and Altman in a Monteverdi madrigal showed just how drama and musicality can be combined in two distinctive baritone voices achieving an unrivaled harmony in the male duet. Michael Kelly's expressive face and hand movements enhanced the pleasure of listening to him.

Maeve Hoglund, who stood out last spring in two one act operas the Symphony Space, held forth with more of her superb stuff in a Bizet aria,  Hoglund is billed a soprano, but sang the mezzo here with a wonderful lower register. Singers are not well served by pegging them into a specific range.  This spring she will sing in the Gotham Chamber Opera's production of Francesco Cavalli's Eliogabalo.

Hoglund joined Kelly in scenes from his stunning opera Il Combattamento di Tancredi e Clorinda. This exciting piece introduced the sounds of nature into music and also pizzicato.  Bridget Kibbey of Maya plucked her harp to a perfection Monetverdi never got out of his musicians. Rapid reiteration of single notes in strict rhythms were articulated by Kelly with grace.   The opera's intense emotionality intensity and powerful theatricality set up the singers and dancers for a display of martial prowess and attraction.

In 2014 the GCO Tancredi will be performed in the Bloomberg daughter's armor room at the Metropolitan Museum, where East has always met West in Samurai and Knights.