Sunday, November 27, 2016

Warhorse Diaries 2016, part one: Aida and Nutcracker

Latonia Moore as Aida, photo by Cory Weaver
It's Nutcracker season again! Actually to be more precise it's warhorse season in NYC. Thanksgiving-Christmas is not the month for artistic institutions to take risks. It's tourist season, and so this means lots of Messiah's, Revelations, Rockettes, and Snowflakes. This is cash-cow time.

With that being said the quality that companies maintain these warhorses can be a good measure of the overall health of that company.  I hope to catch Alvin Ailey's Revelations and a Messiah before the season is done. And maybe another Nutcracker. Thanksgiving week I kicked off my tour of the warhoses at the Met for their reliable warhorse Aida and at NYCB for their money-tree, Nutcracker.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Anna Netrebko's Manon Lescaut Provides Huge Waves of Sound ... And Little More

Anna Netrebko, photo @ Ken Howard
Anna Netrebko's much-anticipated Met debut of Manon Lescaut was a dream if you're the type of opera lover who craves huge, unstinting waves of sound to flood the auditorium all evening. During "Sola, perduta abbandonata" she walked downstage, and simply released the flood-gates of her voice to the 4,000 person auditorium. It was glorious surround-sound. It was the high point of her portrayal. You just bathed in the aural experience. Netrebko is one of the few singers who can do this.  Her voice has even acquired a degree of flexibility it didn't have when she was younger -- she turned out a beautiful trill in "L'ora, o Tirsi." Netrebko has maybe THE finest vocal endowment on the opera scene, period. There's not much her voice can't do. The lushness of her voice, her effectiveness in projecting her instrument, along with her security at the very upper and lower ranges of her voice, are all amazing.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Company XIV's Paris

The adorable front-drop to Company XIV's Paris

This isn't a political blog, so I won't talk about the single most depressing night in American politics that I've ever experienced. Instead I'll just talk about Company XIV and their wildly entertaining Paris that I saw last night. Again, they take a familiar myth (in this case, the Judgement of Paris) and give it a burlesque twist that combines a little bit of everything -- ballet, ballroom dancing, pole dancing, classical music, pop music, cabaret-style comedy and the rest of the kitchen sink. Director Austin McCormick has a knack for: 1) finding talented singers and dancers; and 2) harnessing those eclectic talents into a coherent, focused, appealing show. They don't take themselves too seriously but they're always professional. The show is naughty but never for a moment trashy. These are extremely talented classically trained dancers and singers who are just putting on a fun show. I highly recommend seeing their upcoming Nutcracker Rouge.

The show was anchored by "Zeus/Fifi" (Charlotte Bydwell) who wore a clever costume that was half silk tails, half mermaid costume. She twisted her body both ways to show off her alter egos. Throughout the night she told cabaret-style jokes while loosely narrating the story. The show started with a drag can-can (of course!) then got to the heart of the story, which is the shepherd Paris and his apple. Paris was danced by the talented, handsome Jakob Karr.

The whole evening had so many memorable moments. I'm glad I was able to capture a few on camera (they encourage photography and videotaping).

Here are some videos I took of this evening:

The Paris-Mercury matador-style pas de deux performed by Jakob Karr and Todd Hanenbrink:

The core of the show was the display by Paris's three choices: Athena, Juno, and Venus. Each of the three goddesses put out their best moves in hopes of winning that apple from Paris.

"Athena" Marcy Richardson performs Adele's Skyfall while dancing on a pole. Marcy Richardson's acrobatics/singing has become a beloved staple of these Company XIV shows:

The amazing countertenor Randall Scotting as Juno. Scotting was hilarious as the goddess of home and hearth. He was outwardly masculine with a lovely pure countertenor voice.

Venus was the curvaceous Storm Marrero who sang up a storm and finally won Paris's apple.

Of course at the end Helen of Troy walks off with Paris and the rest is history.

This show is wonderful. This company is wonderful. Please support them in their future ventures -- you won't be disappointed! Company XIV is currently playing at the Irondale Theater in Brooklyn. It's about a five minute walk from BAM.

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