Friday April 16, 2010, proved to be a memorable evening of three exciting new operatic works, performed within an equally modern and unique theater space. American Opera Projects in conjunction with Opera on Tap produced a trio of contemporary opera compositions.
The triple lineup included a futuristic opera in one act entitled Absynth, a collection of songs by composer Tom Cipullo and Margot Alone in the Light, an operatic work that takes place on Venus. Audience members watched the show from circular seating in the house, surrounded by black pools of water and dim, colored lighting. The almost alien ambiance of Galapagos contributed to the futuristic performances of both Absynth and Margot Alone in the Light, while creating an interesting backdrop for Cipullo’s songs about love and regret.
The iconoclastic reviewers over at Parterre Box were in the audience and noted:
Galapagos was quite an interesting place to see an event like this. I personally think this type of venue is a great place for workshopping new works; those in the audience were young and seemingly very supportive of the performances…
What I kept thinking about though, was the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the ’60s, where visionaries like Philip Glass would play in spacious lofts simply because they could. While Galapagos is definitely a money making venture, I think this is as close as the opera world will get to that type of experimental sharing as was seen all those years ago… I would certainly go again to a presentation like this. You never really know if you’ll be there for the premiere of the next great masterwork by the next great composer, and if you aren’t, well, the beer is still cold.
In reply, a blogger named Will also remarked:
…the atmosphere you describe at Galapagos is virtually identical to the way audiences experienced the plays of Shakespeare, and the operas of Cavalli, Handel, Gluck and Rossini when they were new.
The production began with AOP’s Absynth, commissioned, conceived and performed by mezzo- soprano Abigail Fischer. The futuristic piece combined electronics and vocals to tell the story of a machine that becomes a woman and wishes to return to her original state of being. Absynth includes compositions by Nico Muhly, Kevin McFarland, Florent Ghys, Caleb Burhans and AOP’s “Composers and the Voice” composers Stephen Andrew Taylor and Andrew Staniland. The work at large was directed by American Opera Projects Producing Director Matt Gray and also featured actors Mateo Moreno, Erin Posanti, and Craig Kelton Peterson.
“Dreams of Pure Spirit: Songs of Tom Cipullo” rounded out the program as the second performance of the evening. Cipullo served both as composer and pianist for the compilation, accompanying alternating performers Tory Browers (Soprano), Rebecca Jo Loeb (Mezzo) and Michael Anthony McGee (Baritone). The songs ranged from humorous commentaries on New York City, to melancholy expressions of love and regret. Cipullo’s range of emotion was well received by Paterre Box critic Valmont who commented, “His songs can weave several different moods into the same line, and the writing is lyrical and beautiful. He does excel at quirky humor and chooses wonderful texts for this purpose…”
“Opera Grows in Brooklyn” ended with C&V composer Clint Borzoni’s mini-opera Margot in the Light. The text for this opera, written by librettist Emily Conbere, is based on Ray Bradbury short story about the inhabitants of Venus who only see sunlight once in seven years. Margot in the Light follows the plight of native Earthling Margot, who moves to Venus but still remembers the sun. The title role of Margot was sung by soprano Martha Guth to positive reviews. Valmont says of her voice, “Her lyric soprano is easily produced and with great beauty”. Supporting cast members included Alteouise deVaughn, Lisa Williamson, Kimberly Sogioka and Dennis Blackwell.
“Opera Grows in Brooklyn” will return to Galapagos on Friday, July 16.