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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, February, 2010.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Things are looking pretty Thin on Broadway: not many New Plays nor any New Musicals, especially in the cold month of January. The coming Spring--Hurry Up, April!--doesn't look much more Inviting or Encouraging.
Thus far, it is Unthinkable that the Tonys should ever include Nominations--much less Actual Awards--for any of the often ingenious, imaginative, engaging, attractive, absorbing, even riveting Off Broadway Productions.
There is often more Excellence Off & even Off Off Broadway than is to be found generally On Broadway, which is always in search of the new Can't Fail Hit, based on reliable, if tired, Old Models.
In recent seasons, it's true, there have been some attractive revivals of Vintage & Modern Classics, as well as provocative New Dramas. But these have been largely the productions of what were originally classified as Off Broadway production groups, with different contracts than commercial Broadway shows.
The Manhattan Theatre Club & the Roundabout began as much needed essentially Off Broadway Showcases for new works & otherwise impossibly expensive revivals of Large Cast, Multi Set Plays & Musicals of Yesteryear…
Now, each has its own Broadway Theatre, as well as smaller venues.
But even before the American Airlines Theatre--originally the Selwyn Theatre, named for producer/playwright Edgar Selwyn--& the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, formerly the Biltmore, were allocated to the Roundabout & the MTC, some of their Off Broadway Venue productions had to be considered for Tonys, as the League was running out of Nomination Possibilities.
This was also the case for the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center. At its outset--as the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center--it was not eligible for Tonys.
Now, the League is very pleased to be able to honor Lincoln Center productions…
The reason No Tonys can be awarded to Off Broadway Shows--despite the wonders & excellence of some of them--is that the Antoinette Perry Awards are effectually a creation of the League of [Broadway] Theatres & Managers, designed to promote & perpetuate their Broadway Offerings, even though the American Theatre Wing is the Nominal Patron of the Tonys.
So ardent, knowledgeable Theatre Goers--not Out of Towners, who always head directly for Broadway--await the late Spring announcements of the Outer Critics Circle & the Drama Desk Annual–Awards, as well as the Obies, for Real, Honest Acknowledgement of Excellence!
[Disclosure: Your Scribe is a longtime member of the Drama Desk--formerly alternating with the late Pres. Henry Hewes as Weekly Moderator of Expert Panels at Sardi's, dealing with important Theatre Issues of the day. He is also Historian, Board Member, & Awards Nominator of the Outer Critics Circle…
[Not to overlook memberships in Dance Critics of America, Music Critics of North America, the American Theatre Critics Association & the International Theatre Critics Association…]
David Mamet's RACE [***]
Donald Margulies' TIME STANDS STILL [***]
David Ives' VENUS IN FUR [****]
Craig Alan Edwards' THE MAN IN ROOM 306 [****]
Sam Shepard's AGES OF THE MOON [***]
Shawn Nacol's ROUGH SKETCH [**]
New Multi Plays:
Horton Foote's THE ORPHANS' HOME CYCLE: THE STORY OF A MARRIAGE [****]
Tarell Alvin McCraney's THE BROTHER/SISTER PLAYS: THE BROTHERS SIZE & MARCUS: OR THE SECRET OF SWEET [****]
Old Plays in Revival:
Wm. Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT [*****]
Noël Coward's PRESENT LAUGHTER [*****]
GB Shaw's MISALLIANCE [***]
Maureen Dallas Watkins' SO HELP ME GOD! [***]
Arthur Miller's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE [***]
THE KLEZMER NUTCRACKER [**]
Twenty Two Years of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA [****]
Old Musicals in Revival:
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC [****]
ERNEST IN LOVE [***]
FINIAN'S RAINBOW [****]
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
At New York City Center: The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players Revive Some Old Favorites:
THE MIKADO [***]
THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE [***]
H. M. S. PINAFORE [***]
Grand Opera at the Metropolitan Opera:
Puccini's TURANDOT [****]
Verdi's STIFFELIO [***]
Verdi's SIMON BOCCANEGRA [*****]
Opera Off Lincoln Center:
At the Manhattan School of Music:
Fauré's PÉNÉLOPE [***]
OPERA & SHAKESPEARE: THE FOOD OF LOVE [***]
At the Bleecker Street Opera:
Rossini's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE [***]
Unusual Theatre Experiences:
ONCE & FOR ALL WE'RE GONNA TELL YOU WHO WE ARE SO SHUT UP & LISTEN [***]
THE GAYEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER! [***]
THE ACCIDENTAL PERVERT [***]
DUET FOR SOLO VOICE [****]
[Starring Jonathan Slaff, NYTheatre Wire.com Webmaster!]
SHOW NOTES OVERVIEW:
Is David Mamet a Closet Racist? Or is he just trying to Provoke his audiences at Race? Like Oleanna, this drama has a Woman as the Agent of Destruction. Not to overlook the usually clean gene Richard Thomas as a White Rascal…
What I took away from seeing this play is the Idea that Whites Fear Blacks, while Blacks Hate Whites…
The great thing about seeing Time Stands Still is how much Laura Linney resembles the young Meryl Streep! She is beautiful!
Rom Linney, Laura's dad, is in danger of being remembered, not for his Sorrows of Frederic, but for being the father of such a fine actress…
The play itself doesn't quite work, though its cast--including Eric Bogosian!--certainly does.
David Ives once again has demonstrated his ingenious flair for Adaptations: instead of simply dramatizing Leopold von Sacher Masoch's Venus in Furs as a Period Piece of Middle European Sexually Repressive Fantasies, he has the young author/director of a proposed Period Venus get frenetically & submissively involved with a seemingly ditzy actress who has come late to his Auditions.
Wow! Hot Stuff! Viva Nina Arianda & Wes Bentley!
Entering The Man in Room 306, the audience also enters his bedroom in the Lorraine Motel!
The man is Martin Luther King, Jr., wonderfully played by Craig Alan Edwards, who also crafted the heart felt & moving script!
Although it's often awkward for an American Actor to fake an Irish Accent, Stephen Rea & Seán McGinley do very well with their Western American Expostulations in Sam Shepard's Ages of the Moon, commissioned by Dublin's Abbey Theatre, which has brought this production to the shores of the Atlantic Theatre.
A "Minor" Blow Job may have ruined Ames/Rea's Marriage. He's retreated to a house in the middle of Nowhere, to which he's urgently invited his old friend Byron, for Moral Support. Then the Fun Begins!
The Porch Fan seems to have a Mind of Its Own, so Ames blasts it down with two shots from his double barreled rifle! Byron also seems in Serious Danger from the erratic Ames.
Without the excellent Rea & McGinley in these roles--what is Not Said, in their Pregnant Pauses, is almost more Potent than what they do say--this two hander could seem almost banal & routine Shepardry. But that won't stop almost every Regional Theatre & College Drama Department from giving it a Try…
Yes, the wonderful, caring Horton Foote is indeed a National Treasure, especially now that he has Passed Over & can write no more plays from Memory…
While the first two installments of The Orphan's Home Cycle have been impressively Realistic Accounts of Fractured Families in early 20th century Texas--with the cast off Horace Robedaux/Bill Heck at the center--Horton Foote's almost Total Recall of who said what still needs some Editing. Especially if this show of Three Long Evenings is to move to Broadway, as is rumored.
Nonetheless, as an Orphan myself--a Pre Existing Condition in Childhood--I have been deeply moved & roused to laughter at various scenes, wonderfully brought to life by the Ensemble of the Hartford Stage, staged by Michael Wilson.
At the Public, Tarell Alvin McCraney reveals himself--as well as his African American Brothers & Sisters--as painfully aware of how it is to survive in a society in which the White Man still dominates.
McCraney is a Major New Talent: his fascinating Characters offer insights into diverse aspects of American Life which may be astonishing, even Revelatory, to White Audiences. What's more, they are inhabited by an ensemble of unbelievably dynamic actors & actresses… Directed by Robert O'Hara!
The Bard at BAM!
OK, Okay, already…
After over 50 Years of seeing & reporting on Shakespeare Festivals, at home & abroad--I even saw Every Festival in the US & Canada for Theatre Crafts one summer, which also resulted in a book: The Shakespeare Complex--I have a long, long list of the Bard's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies I've seen so many times that I really do not want to have to sit through any of them again.
They include As You Like It, Henry V, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Comedy of Errors, Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo & Juliet, & even All's Well That Ends Well…
Then along comes a new production from the Old Vic, the Young Vic, or the Royal Shakespeare--which demand to be seen, especially if they come to BAM--so I cannot refuse.
In most of these productions, I am pleasantly surprised at some new Readings or Relationships actors & directors have discovered in the texts, but seldom do I have that fabled experience of The First Time. Or the Illusion thereof…
As staged by Sam Mendes at BAM & as Brought to Life by his remarkable cast, the Bridge Project's delightful production of As You Like It seems really Lived, Inhabited, despite the Artful Conceits of the Bard's Poetry & Lyrics.
I was both charmed & moved by the Passions & Phantasies of Juliet Rylance, in the Breeches Role of Ganymede/Rosalind. It was a delight to see Alvin Epstein as both Adam & Sir Oliver Martext. What a wonderful actor & personality Epstein is!
At first, I thought the Bridge Project was bridging the Atlantic Ocean, between BAM--not far from the docks at Red Hook--& London's Old Vic, up the Thames from Land's End…
This delightfully new As You Like It, however, is to cross at least two oceans & several seas, as it is a co production of BAM, the Old Vic, the Singapore Repertory Theatre, the Théâtre Marigny Paris, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, & the Holland Festival!
Art Deco on Broadway!
As longtime Editor of the Art Deco News & The Modernist, Your Scribe was dazzled by the incredibly handsome Art Deco Apartment of the self infatuated West End actor, Gary Essendine, designed not by John Lee Beatty, but by Alexander Dodge!
When the Curtain went up, I thought: John Lee has outdone himself!
Beatty had just created a stunning set for The Royal Family, over at the former Biltmore Theatre, now the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre--who was Sam Friedman anyway, that a famed Broadway Theatre should be renamed for him? [Will the Lunt Fontanne be next? Renamed The Stephen Sondheim/Elaine Stritch Theatre…]
As Gary Essendine, Victor Garber is a positive bundle of Self Regard & Self Absorption, fearing his Star may be Fading a bit. He is not a Stand In for Playwright Noël Coward, because the Master--as he was known to close friends--never had such problems: He Knew Who He Was.
[Incidental Intelligence: Coward's bedroom in his London flat had Mirrors on both the Walls & Ceiling, but not so he could admire his face from every angle…]
Harriet Harris & Lisa Banes are wonderful foils for the Garber/Essendine Madness, but Brooks Ashmanskas is devastatingly hilarious as the desperately untalented Young Playwright who longs, literally, to Worship at the Master's Feet…
Nicholas Martin deftly staged, with what they often call "Split Second Timing."
Shaw's Misalliance proved a Very Talky Play at the Pearl, now happily at home in the Manhattan Theatre Club's basement at City Center.
Shaw had some Favorite Topics he wished to flog in this thesis comedy, but they now don't seem so compelling--or even stage worthy…
The Jonathan Bank's adventurous Mint Theatre moved [temporarily?] down to the Lucille Lortel on Christopher Street for its revival of So Help Me God!, a more or less forgotten play by Maureen Dallas Watkins, Creatrix of Chicago, before it became a Musical.
This is a charmingly satiric show about putting on a Show!
Arthur Miller's Bridge View--
Somewhere over in the depths of Brooklyn, they just revived William Bolcomb's musicalisation of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. But this didn't really work as an opera, when it was initially produced by the NY City Opera. So why revive it now?
The Problem was not only the Score, vainly straining for Effect & Power, but, more importantly, in the Inadequacies of Miller's original Characters & Plot, which he intended to rise to the level of a Tragedy of the Common Man.
Despite the powerful performance of Liev Schrieber as Eddie Carbone, in the current revival of Miller's original script, the play still does not work as Miller intended. It falls far short of Tragedy, whether Classic or Modern/Common.
It does have, in effect, a Tragic Chorus--but not quite as in Oedipus, who also incestuously loved the Wrong Woman, like Eddie--but, in View, the Chorus is subsumed into one man, the Lawyer Alfieri. But his comments on the characters & actions seem rather like Unnecessary Interruptions than much needed Commentary & Empathy.
Despite his Errors or Misdeeds--done out of Hubris or even Stupidity--the Tragic Hero, then & now, finally has to confront what he has done, what he has become: He must at last have Self Knowledge!
At the close, Alfieri intones that Eddie "allowed himself to be fully known," or words to that effect.
But that's not the case at all: Eddie doesn't really understand why he has Informed on the "Submarines" living in his home, breaking the Code of Omerta.
He dies of a stab wound in a knife fight he has provoked by his disgusting Betrayals, still unknowing…
Willy Loman, also, never really knew Who He Was.
In All My Sons, at least, Bill Keller does have to confront what he has done: "They were all my sons…"
Without that Tragic Recognition, there can be no Catharthis for the audience. Instead of Empathy, there is Pathos, so Eddie is indeed Pathetic. Thus, A View from the Bridge could be called a Pathegy, rather than a Tragedy…
Make Mine Music!
As for The Klezmer Nutcracker--although it was the only New Musical in December/January--it was hardly in a class with, say, Finian's Rainbow or even Flahooley.
Ellen Kushner's Erzatz Klezmer Nutcracker was based on her fantasy book, The Golden Dreydl, which offers a Jewish Children's Alternative to A Christmas Carol.
But the immediate problem for a Klezmer lover was that there was only recorded music, although it was performed by the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, conducted by Glenn Dickson. Only one of the musical numbers was actually Tchaikovsky Inspired.
Exploring the significance of the Hebrew Letters on the faces of the Drehdel--a Chanukah Spinning Top, turned Feminine Dancer--then placing the Letters on the Tree of Life provided the Central Action, energetically performed by a young cast.
The program does not indicate if Ellen Kushner is, in any way, related to Angels in America Playwright Tony Kushner. Or to Jared Kushner, publisher of The Observer
Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is not a New Musical, nor is it a Revival of an Old Musical. It is Itself, now running 22 Years on Broadway: a Record celebrated on 26 January 2010!
Your Scribe saw Phantom when it opened in London, then, later when director Hal Prince opened it on Broadway, then On the Road, then in various Foreign Incarnations, not to overlook its fantastic Las Vegas staging, with dazzling technology.
Returning to check it out & see the inside of the Majestic Theatre once again--after so many years--I was again overwhelmed by the Production Magic, ingeniously designed by the late Maria Björnson, with her fabulous costumes recreating the Belle Époque Period Stagings in Late 19th Century Paris Theatres.
John Cudia is powerful, mysterious, & vengeful as the Phantom, but he meets his match, vocally, in handsome Ryan Silverman, who certainly outclasses him in Looks…
Jennifer Hope Wills is a visually & vocally stunning Christine, initially properly innocent, then intimidated by the Phantom, then enchanted when he takes her on a Gondola Ride amid a misty forest of guttering candles on the Opéra's Underground Lake…
If you have never before seen Phantom--or even if you have--this Prince of Productions is still thrilling & well worth a Re Visitation.
Michael Crawford was a wonderful Initial Phantom, but John Cudia leaves his own Mark on this production, although his Mask is Generic…
As for the Revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, it is Subdued Magic in its own way, less hectic & electric than the original Hal Prince production. Trevor Nunn & his set & costume designer, David Farley, have made it something like a Dream Memory of misty images.
It is especially distinguished by Angela Lansbury, as the ageing Grand Courtesan Madame Armfeldt.
Her daughter, the actress Desirée, is played by film star Catherine Zeta Jones. I found her affecting, even with a bit of necessary Theatrical Affectation. Yes, she actually sings, but No, she is not too young for the role, as some critics have suggested…
This handsome production is by no means Send in the Clones!
Just as some non Irish wondered why Charlotte Moore's estimable Irish Rep was presenting Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, so have some also questioned the Irishness of its current musical, Ernest in Love.
Whatever you may think about the possible Racism of The Emperor Jones--which has moved, to continue its appeal to Off Broadway Audiences--its author was certainly Irish American.
Ernest's Creator, Oscar Wilde, was Irish Born & Bred: the Wildes of Merion Square in Dublin! There's even a statue in the nearby park, with Wilde reclining on a huge rock: Dubliners call this The Fag on the Crag!
Bu Wilde, like so many other Irish Playwrights--such as Goldsmith, Sheridan, Boucicault, Shaw, & even O'Casey--ultimately had to move to England for their works to be more widely seen & heard.
Of course, Wilde's hilarious satire on British Society's Airs & Graces--The Importance of Being Earnest--is eminently English.
It is also very witty, which poses a problem for this show--or any Earnest musical adaptation: there is yet another, called Bunbury--in that the Lyrics do not rise to the level of the wit in the Dialogue.
However charming the musical tunes, their lyrics often seem reductions of Wilde's wit & ingenious dramatic situations.
Given Charlotte Moore's spirited direction & her excellent cast, one at last longs for this production to be of Wilde's play--without the music & lyrics, which somehow diminish the Mordant Humor of Wilde's Original.
Although Finian's Rainbow--recently revived at the St. James & more recently closed--has some wonderful songs & satiric social situations--When the Idle Poor become the Idle Rich--its Social Satire harks back to another Era of Racism & Poverty.
Perhaps because the elemental Production Values looked a bit like Bus & Truck, some audiences may have been disappointed, especially at Broadway Prices.
Still, there was the handsome Cheyenne Jackson as folk singer Woody Mahoney, with Jim Norton a charming Irish Finian & Kate Baldwin as his daughter, Sharon. Of course, those who remember Ella Logan in the role--how many of us are still Alive?--may believe no one else can be Sharon.
Those who remember David Wayne as Og, the Leprechaun, may also think no one could match him, but Christopher Fitzgerald was a wily sprite.
The real Problem with Finian's Rainbow was Finian's mad idea of burying the stolen Crock of Gold near Fort Knox, where all America's Gold Ingots were once stored.
In the Era of President Charles DeGaulle we gave all that gold to France: "Payable On Demand," as it used to say on our paper money…
Now, we just print millions, billions, & trillions of Paper, Fiat Money, as they call it…
Forget about Fort Knox & Crocks of Gold! We have to deal instead with the Crocks of Politics, steaming up from our Congress! Or should we substitute Crooks for Crocks?
Period Note: At the time of the Original Broadway Production--with its Hit Song, How Are Things in Glocca Morra?--Radio Comedian Fred Allen asked Mrs. Nussbaum in Allen's Alley about her favorite new song. Minerva Pious, who played her, responded: How Are Things with Uncle Morris?
But how could they close a show with so many wonderful songs: Old Devil Moon, Look to the Rainbow, If This Isn't Love, Necessity, & That Great 'Come and Get It' Day…
But, if people don't buy seats, what can you do?
Phantom, Mary Poppins, Lion King, Chicago, & Mama Mia are still packing them in…
When Finian was still singing Yip Harburg's lyrics on Broadway, way down in the East Village, at Crystal Field's Theatre for the New City, the Harlem Repertory Ensemble was busy reviving Harburg's fantastic McCarthy Era satire Flahooley.
Actually, Harburg wrote the Flahooley lyrics alone, but he co authored the book with Fred Saidy, while the score was by Sammy Fain.
Ostensibly about creating Fads in Children's Toys--shaping Mass American Taste through Manipulative Marketing & Advertising Strategies--the Anti McCarthy Message was not deeply enough camouflaged for some Conservative Theatre Goers.
So Flahooley flopped on Broadway.
The next season, it re appeared as Jollyanna, produced on the West Coast by the LA SF Civic Light Opera--which had also produced Song of Norway & Magdalena.
Then at UC/Berkeley, I saw it--thanks to Ushering Signups--at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. I loved it most for the presence of Yma Sumac, famed for her Four Octave Range.
It didn't work this time either. It also didn't help that there were malicious rumors that Yma Sumac--noted for her recording of Songs of the Xtabay--was really Amy Camus from Brooklyn, with her original name spelled backward!
G&S at the New York City Center for Music & Drama--
Listening to W. S. Gilbert's Lyrics & Patter Songs for The Mikado once again reminds of his witty ingenuity with words & rhymes. Gilbert's word play seems endlessly engaging, even if there are only so many rhyme combinations possible…
Watching the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players perform not only The Mikado & H. M. S. Pinafore, but also Ruddigore at City Center, however, I had the sneaking feeling that they were longer than other G&S stagings I had seen over time.
Certainly longer than Jonathan Miller's amusingly curious mounting of Mikado…
Having seen New York's very own G&S Players before at Symphony Space, I was by now used to the minimal Stock Settings, appropriate for an ensemble that needs to travel.
But I had not thought much about the length of their shows until Now.
They are generally longer--certainly longer than the Definitive D'Oyly Carte Productions--because so much Stage Time is used up in heavy handed Clowning & Mugging & Rolling About on the stage.
The Voices are generally Good to Excellent, but the overall performances suggest High Level Community Theatre.
In Pinafore, I don't know when I have seen so many fat or stocky British Tars. But they all danced their choreographd Hornpipes without missing a beat…
The "All New" Ruddigore was advertised as inspired by the drawing style of the late cartoonist, Edward Gorey.
Well, I saw that Dracula that Gorey designed for the Martin Beck--I even still have the Gorey designed cardboard cut out Toy Theatre for Dracula.
Sadly, Ruddigore doesn't compare, especially in its tacky initial Village Scene, which is definitely Community Theatre…
THE SPLENDOR OF THE METROPOLITAN OPERA:
This report is bejeweled with stunning Production Photos of current Metropolitan Opera productions, even those that I was not permitted to witness, as Press Tickets are always tight & I am not writing for the New York Times…
Thus, I missed Tosca--which I have been promised when it returns in Spring--but I will certainly also see it this Summer in Munich, as it's a co production with the Bavarian State Opera & the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
Carmen also was a No No. If a Met production features either Anna Netrebko or Renée Fleming, the Press Tix will go only to the Most Read Critics from the Most Prestigious Media.
No matter: I will see/hear them later in Europe at the Major Festivals.
Most enjoyable among recent Met Visits was the impressive stage production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, even though I have seen it several times previously.
The toppling of the great statue in the Piazza--as Boccanegra, the Corsair, is to become Doge of Genoa--is reminiscent of the statue overthrows of Lenin, Stalin, & Sadam Hussein.
Scenes in the great Council Chamber of the Doge's Palace--with the detailed recreations of the fantastic frescos on the walls & ceiling--require very strong stage direction & powerful singing to prevent the colorful murals from attracting undue audience attention.
What was, for me, the most amazing aspect this Boccanegra was the presence & power of Placido Domingo in this challenging role. He is amazing, especially at his age: brilliant Singer, empathetic Conductor, & Opera Impresario…
Adrianne Pieczonka was an impressive Amelia/Maria, drawn to the Gabriele Adorno of Marcello Giordani. As the powerful & dangerous Fiesco, James Morris was intriguing indeed.
James Levine conducted what is one of the best Opera Orchestras in the World. Certainly it has no equal in New York.
Levine also conducted both the Turandot & the Stiffelio, completing my Three Operas for the month. But at least Levine's time is not divided--as is Domingo's--between Conducting in the Pit & Acting/Singing in Costume on stage…
When Franco Zeffirelli's lavish production of Puccini's Turndot premiered at the Met some seasons ago, some critics objected that there was Just Too Much on stage: Too much Stage Action, all the time.
Supposedly, the very lavishness--even excessiveness--of Franco's Sets, Costumes, Props, & Banners, made it difficult to know Where To Look.
But, as Zeffirelli told me in an interview, he believed Lavish Productions were what the Met's Conservative Patrons most liked. Not the Spare, the Abstract, or the Minimal…
And, for a long time, he was proved Right.
Nonetheless, his Turandot had to be made less Lavish, less Busy…
Some Banners & Props were eliminated. Some gratuitous Stage Action was cut or reduced.
When I saw it again, after the Subtractions, I could see what he had scrapped.
But now, after some years, I cannot remember what was removed, as the production is still overpowering in its Lavish Complexity.
This is not a Major Problem if the Turandot, Liù, & Calàf can hold the stage, not only with their Vocal Powers, but also with their command of their Characters.
Maria Guleghina's Turandot was certainly both commanding & powerful. Maija Kovalevska's noble, loving, & self sacrificing slave girl Liù was powerfully empathetic & sad.
But Philip Webb's Calàf was a virtual Non Entity on stage, both Vocally & Physically.
Banging the Gong to announce his challenge to Turandot, he hit the rim of the frame, instead of the center of the gong… Downhill from there…
If you love Ornate & Lavish Stage Productions--they are too costly for Broadway now & Radio City Music Hall no longer has Grand Spectacles every week--then the Met is the place to go.
Unless it's the Luc Bondy Tosca that replaced the stunning Zeffirelli staging, which recreated the Actual Sites in Rome.
It's rumored that--because of the Outcry about the Bondy Tosca--Met Manager Peter Gelb might bring back the old production, offering it in rotating repertory with the new staging.
Despite some powerful arias & orchestral passages, there's a very good reason why Verdi's Stiffelio is so seldom staged. The Plot & Characters are, to put it punningly, Stiffs…
The most impressive Stage Decoration in the First Act is the Longest Table in Opera History. It almost fills the wide, wide stage of the Met!
This has its advantages, especially if the Stage Director has no idea how to keep the characters on stage busy when they have nothing more to do than listen to Stiffelio, "a Minister of the Gospel." Certainly a Lutheran, rather than a Roman Catholic Priest…
Instead of having to make Full Stage Crosses, everyone can hover about the long table, listening to Stiffelio pontificate about Public & Private Morals.
This Sanctimonious Posture has a certain Irony, as his beloved wife, Lina, has had an Affair in his absence.
The Audience will know at once who the Cad is, as he--Raffaele--is also standing near the table, wearing a Green Velvet Jacket, rather than the Basic Black favored by the Virtuous.
When Lina goes at night into the Churchyard Cemetery to pray to the Spirit of her dear departed Mother, the immense Stone Image of her Mother dominates the entire Cemetery, also thronged with other distracting Monuments.
Designer Michael Scott was responsible for the rather oddly calculated Settings, though the final scene--in a brightly light flooded, simple Lutheran Church Interior--does focus attention on the repentant Lina, impersonated by Julianna Di Giacomo, & the stiffly forgiving Stiffelio, sung by José Cura.
Enough of Italian Opera: Time for Something French!
French Opera has never had much of a Public in New York, so it was interesting that the Manhattan School of Music Opera Theatre recently presented Gabriel Fauré's Pénélope in an attractive production.
As in the Odyssey, Ulysses' faithful wife, Penelope [Lori Guilbeau], endlessly weaves her Tapestry, surrounded by quarreling Suitors, who think to wed her when the Tapestry is finished, presuming that the long lost Hero of the Trojan War will never return.
But Penelope every night unravels what she has woven that day…
Ulysses [Cooper Nolan] finally returns--after many fraught adventures--as yet unrecognized by Penelope. He suggests a Test for the Suitors: the Winner will be he who can draw Ulysses' Super Powerful Bow.
None but the Hero can do this, so he then slaughters the Suitors!
Imagine singing this in French! The student cast was admirable.
Laurent Pillot conducted; Lawrence Edelson staged.
The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theatre also offered an Autumn program called Opera & Shakespeare: The Food of Love. It opened with Kiss Me, Kate, followed by a series of Romeo & Juliet scenes composed by the likes of Lee Hoiby, Charles Gounod, Leonard Bernstein, & Nicola Vaccaj.
The Bard's Merry Wives of Windsor was evoked by Verdi's Falstaff, Otto Nicolai's Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, & Antonio Salieri's Falstaff.
The Amato Opera is no more. But some of its stalwarts have migrated to 45 Bleecker Street, where the Bleecker Street Opera has been presenting a vest pocket production of Rossini's Barber of Seville.
Some of the central roles are sung by Opera Once Hopefuls whose Shelf Life is expiring. Others are really young, talented Opera Hopefuls who need a Manhattan Showcase.
The Hopefuls rotate in roles. I saw the charming Figaro of handsome Will Browning--who was leaving the next day to pursue a Doctorate in Music in Norman, Oklahoma!
Browning really carried the show, so I hope the Doctorate will strengthen his resolve to head for the Met before long.
Do they allow Doctors of Music to sing at the Met? At least, they already have Dr. Faustus & Dr. Caius, in Merry Wives…
Nathan Baer--with an astonishing bass baritone voice--was a delightfully wily Don Basilio, his long red hair streaming down from under his pious black broad brimmed clerical hat.
Jordan Wentworth was the put upon Rosina, trying to avoid the advances of her aged but lusty Guardian, Dr. Bartolo, who didn't seem much older than Lindoro/Almaviva.
Theatrical Oddments & Adventures!
Teen agers in Belgium must have a lot of pent up Emotions & Desires. The Belgian Cast of Once & For All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So SHUT UP & Listen certainly unleashed a storm at the Duke Theatre on New 42 recently.
At times, the stage looked like a Destruction Derby, with chairs being smashed & rehashed…
As for the seasonal Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever!, it was, as they used to say, a Hoot!
All the Types were there in provocative dress or Uniforms: Gay Community Theatre in West Hollywood, instead of the East Village. Maybe there are more Gay Christians who need to celebrate Christmas in some fashion Way Out West?
The Accidental Pervert could be an off putting title for some who would really enjoy Andrew Goffman's Confessional Re Enactment about finding his departed Dad's stash of Porn Tapes hidden in his closet.
Goffman Senior didn't die: he just moved out. But seeing the tapes--when his Mother was out--made Andy something of a Porn Addict. His account of this is hilarious, wonderfully acted by the Author himself--who also moves as smoothly as a dancer…
Goffman was cured when he got married to a beautiful young woman & found that True Love--including having a Baby--is nothing like "Porn Flakes."
Being the Senior Correspondent for both NY Museums.com & NY Theatre Wire.com, I must recuse myself from commenting on my Webmaster, Jonathan Slaff, performing Duet for Solo Voice at Theatre for the New City.
Nonetheless, it's an amusing & energetic performance, as Slaff plays two roles, the Paranoid Hotel Clerk, Leonard Pelican, & his Imaginary Persecutor, the NKVD's Vassily Chort.
See it for yourself! You will make two people happy: Yourself & Jonathan Slaff!
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