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Culture Beat – Prototype Opera Festival; Met Fledermaus; NY Philharmonic; Lincoln Center Theater “Domesticated”

Posted on: January 19th, 2014 by Art Leonard No Comments

I have been so busy with LGBT legal developments over the past month that I have neglected to blog about my various cultural expeditions, so I’m going to play catch-up here with a few brief comments about the events I’ve attended since mid-December.

On December 17, I saw Lincoln Center Theater’s production of “Domesticated,” a play by Bruce Norris which seems to have been inspired, at least in part, by the hit network TV show, The Good Wife. A public officeholder confesses publicly to patronizing a prostitute and is forced by circumstances to resign his position, resulting in all kinds of stresses on his marriage. This issue has received enough treatment now to raise the question whether another play has anything to contribute. What struck me about this one was that the playwright seemed to have sympathy mainly for the politician, unless the dialogue he wrote for him in the second act is intended to caricature his views, because, having been relatively mute through Act I, the politician spews forth a stream of invective in Act II, the main burden of which is that things seem to be rigged against men in public life who can’t win if they stray even once from the straight and narrow. Anyway…. I thought the show as a whole was rather depressing, although certainly the cast gave it their all.

Next up was the New York Philharmonic’s last performance of a run of five of Handel’s Messiah, which I attended on December 21 with one of my students who won a raffle conducted by the LGBT student group to raise money for a gay charity. The Philharmonic, exhibiting a singular lack of imagination, has fallen into doing Messiah every year for the week before Christmas. As if we don’t have enough Messiahs of every variety in New York City during December. . . At least with the NYP one can be sure that there will be a well-drilled, well-schooled choir in attendance, first rate soloists, and an interesting guest conductor. This year they invited Andrew Manze for his NY Philharmonic debut. Manze, who first came to public attention as an early music specialist, has been doing more conducting of mainstream orchestras, serving since September 2006 as principal conductor of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden, and preparing to take up a similar post with the North German Radio Philharmonic in Hamburg, Germany beginning next season after his Swedish gig ends. Manze brings insights from the early music movement, which is useful in Messiah, so this account was fleet and ship-shape. Matthew Muckey, a fine young member of the Philharmonic’s trumpet section, was outstanding in “The Trumpet Shall Sound.” The soloists -Joelle Harvey, Tamara Mumford, Allan Clayton, and Matthew Rose, were all superb, but I was especially taken with Rose, whose marvelous recording of Schubert’s Winterreise I had recently heard. His bass voice was startlingly big compared to the other soloists. I noted that Manze, unlike some other early music practitioners, does not go for excessive speed, and at times indulged much more “romantic” sorts of interpretive moves than I would have expected, especially in the instrumental overture and the Pastoral Symphony. It was altogether a satisfying Messiah, if in some ways a redundant one. The Philharmonic could do us all a favor by injecting some more variety into holiday season concert-going by finding other suitable music for that third week in December. They are releasing next year’s schedule soon. Will it include yet another run of Messiah?

My next outing, with my usual concert/theater companion (who had been away on a business trip for much of December), was the Prototype Festival’s NY premiere presentation of the one-act opera, “Paul’s Case,” with music by Gregory Spears and libretto by Mr. Spears and Kathryn Walat, heard on January 9. Robert Wood conducted the American Modern Ensemble instrumentalists and a fine cast headed by Jonathan Blalock in the title role. The opera is based on a Willa Cather short story about a Pittsburgh teenage boy in the early 20th century who suffers the torment of being “different” from his contemporaries – concerned for poetry and music and art and a bit of a dandified dresser, he suffers ridicule and dismissal for not being a “real boy.” Thus oppressed, he steals enough money from his employer (he is working in a boring retail clerk job) to fund a trip to New York City, where he falls in with a Yale student down from New Haven for a slumming weekend, but he eventual perishes in the snow as he runs out of cash and has to leave the sumptuous hotel where he had stayed. Today, he would undoubtedly fall into bed with the Yalie, “come out,” and become a gay liberationist. But this is all subtext in the Cather story, and the composer/librettist appropriately leave it as subtext to be true to the period. Blalock impressed me a few years ago when he sang an important role in the Ft. Worth premiere of my friend Jorge Martin’s opera “Before Night Fall” (get the recording!!) and he was most impressive in this intimate “black box” opera production. The music was rather minimalist and at time monotonous – I found myself nodding off a bit toward the end of the Pittsburgh segment — but it really came alive when the action shifted to New York. The same performers who provided the supporting roles in Pittsburgh changed their costumes to become the New York performers, and Michael Slattery particularly impressed as the Yale freshman down for his wild New York City weekend. The inventive production was directed by Kevin Newbury, who used a few key props to establish the scenes.

On January 10 it was back to the Philharmonic for a bit of a hodge-podge program led by Alan Gilbert in anticipation of the Philharmonic’s upcoming tour. There would seem to be little thematic sense in bringing together Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture and First Symphony, Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Except, of course, for the fact that the NYP plays all these pieces well, and perhaps the contrast between the Symphony and the Gershwin provided a refreshing second half to the program. Shostakovich’s concerto, which received its American premiere from this orchestra in the 1950s with the dedicatee, David Oistrakh, and then-music director Dmitri Mitropoulos, who left a CBS recording done a few days after the concerts that has never really been surpassed, has now become a frequently-played showpiece for young violinists. Lisa Batiashvili, one of the legion of extraordinarily gifted young violinists now gracing concert platforms worldwide, brought plenty of passion and high technique to her playing. I thought that perhaps in the context of this program the orchestra did not spend lots of time rehearsing the Beethoven symphony, which came off as untidy in spots, especially in the first violins. They last played the symphony in 2012, so perhaps they didn’t pay so much attention to it in rehearsal. The Shostakovich concerto was last done by this orchestra in 2012 as well, and the Gershwin they played this past summer during their Vail, Colorado, residency. In other words, this program harked back to the “lazy programming” characteristic of the Maazel administration, when it was rare, apart from the very occasional premiere, to hear anything at the Philharmonic that had not been played within the previous five years. (The Fidelio Overture managed to evade this, having last been played by this orchestra a decade ago.) Each of these pieces is worth playing, of course, and a joy to hear, and otherwise this year the Philharmonic’s schedule has a fair degree of variety in it, so I won’t complain to hard. But when you put this together with the Messiah from December. . .

The next afternoon, I was at the Metropolitan Opera with my usual opera-going companion to attend a matinee performance of Strauss’s “Die Fledermaus,” performed to a new English libretto by Douglas Carter Beane. The Met rationalizes performing this piece in translation because it is really an operetta with lots of dialogue, but sometimes the English sounds a bit odd sung to Viennese strains. The production is lavish and seems to work well enough. In an age of countertenors, Orlovsky is no longer a “pants” role for a woman, so we had Anthony Roth Costanzo, one of my favorite young singers, as the Prince, although I agree with the Times critic that he seemed a bit stretched by the vocal range of this part. His acting and dancing was spot-on, however. The entire show seemed very well cast, with Christopher Maltman a superb Eisenstein, and Danny Burstein doing a well-crafted comic turn in the non-singing role of Frosch, the jailer. Adam Fischer’s conducting was not quite as frothy as one usually encounters in this piece. The sets were worthy of applause.

On January 18, I attended my second Prototype Festival production, “Thumbprint,” a world premiere of a one-act opera by Kamala Sankaram (music) and Susan Yankowitz (libretto), directed by Rachel Dickstein, with Steven Osgood conducting. Although I was laboring under a bad cold, which distracted me at times with the business of breathing and stifling coughs, I was quickly drawn in by the intense drama of a young woman, Mukhtar, in a Pakistani village, who gets pulled into a situation where she is subjected to an “honor rape” by men from another village who accused her young brother of looking the wrong way at one of their women. Mukhtar, at first devastated and resigned to being damaged goods and perhaps fading away locked up in her room, is encouraged by her parents to fight back, and finds the courage to go to the police and testify against her assailants. She is lucky to appear before an honest judge who believes her story and convicted the leader of her assailants. Composer Camala Sankaram was glorious singing her own music as Mukhtar, and Theodora Hanslowe was superb as the mother. (I have a soft spot for Hanslowe, since her father was one of my favorite professors when I was an undergraduate at Cornell in the 1970s.) The remaining cast, playing a variety of roles, was also superb: Steve Gokol as the father and the judge, Many Narayan and Kannan Vasudevan as, among other things, the assailants, and Leela Subramaniam as the younger sister among other parts. The production was in a rather larger space than “Paul’s Case,” which had been presented at HERE. This production was at Baruch College, and used projections and props to create the Pakistani setting most evocatively. The music was a piquant mix of eastern and western motifs, using some ethnic instruments as well as western ones to produce the requisite exotic sounds. I hope this will receive lots of productions. It should be within the range of university music departments, and deserves wide exposure.

I also saw several movies over the course of the holiday season — The Book Thief, the Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Saving Mr. Banks — but have let time go by without comment and won’t bother to comment here, other than to say that every film I saw had some redeeming features and that 12 Years a Slave struck me as a particularly important production. I haven’t seen all the films nominated for Best Picture by the Motion Picture Academy this year, but if I were voting I would vote for 12 Years a Slave.

Glimmerglass Festival 2013 – My Annual Visit to Cooperstown

Posted on: August 7th, 2013 by Art Leonard No Comments

This was my fourth year attending the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, NY, with my usual theater/opera-going companion.  As we did last year, we signed up for all four presentations, although this time we spread it out over four days instead of trying to cram it all into three days with a Saturday matinee.  One program a night proved an enjoyable, civilized pace, with plenty of variety, leaving us free for rest, relaxation and exploration during the days.  We also abandoned the “tacky motel” routine and decided to splurge on a real, old-fashioned bed & breakfast experience, the Limestone Mansion in Cherry Valley, N.Y., a short drive from the Glimmerglass grounds and a delightful, quiet and comfortable place that is highly recommended.

The Festival has over the years embraced a formula of sorts for composing a varied season.  They will always do at least one “standard repertory” opera, and this year they fell in with the Wagner Bicentennial activity by selecting “The Flying Dutchman,” which we attended on Sunday, August 4 (matinee).  They also try to find a rarely-performed opera by a major composer, and for that they noted the Verdi Bicentennial as well, picking his early comedy “Un Giorno di Regno”, which they performed in English under the title “King for a Day,” although it might better be translated as “A Day as King.”  They always try to do something new, either commissioned or reasonably “newish,” and this year that role was filled with a certified masterpiece, David Lang’s “Little Match Girl Passion,” but they went the extra step of commissioning Lang to write some more music as a prelude for the children’s choir (which has an important role in the Passion).  And, as the Lang piece is not long enough for a full evening’s opera, they devised a double bill, leading off with Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” in a creative combination of singing and dancing.  Finally (although, for us, the first program on Thursday evening) the annual tribute to the gods of Broadway, with Lerner and Loewe’s 1960 hit, “Camelot,” based on the final chapters of T.H. White’s novel, “The Once and Future King.” 

This combination of programs provided something for everyone.  For me there were three special attractions to the weekend: A chance to hear a favorite young countertenor, Anthony Roth Costanzo, who sang in the Pergolesi piece; a chance to hear another favorite, Nathan Gunn, performing as Lancelot in “Camelot”; and a chance to experience the conducting of a major opera by a neighbor in the building where I live, John Keenan, who led the Wagner performance and gave a fine pre-performance talk.  For all the works, whether performed in English or, in the case of Wagner, German, and Pergolesi, Latin, surtitles were projected above the stage for all the singing.

Glimmerglass rarely disappoints with their productions.  Although the budget and the facilities place some practical limitations on what they can do, they bring imagination to the task and usually devise productions that work artistically.  I think that was true for everything I experienced this past weekend.  Unit sets predominate, with some moving of props, platforms, and furniture and very creative use of lighting to suggest different settings.  The audience needs to bring its imagination, and superior musical and dramatic performances make that eminently possible.  One needn’t spend a fortune on complex sets when something minimalist but functional will do.

Despite Gunn’s participation, I thought the standout performances in Camelot, which was conducted by James Lowe, came from the other leads: David Pittsinger as King Arthur, Andriana Chuchman as Guenevere, and especially Jack Noseworthy, who dominated much of Act II as Mordred, the bastard son who pops up to haunt Arthur and stir dissension that leads to the destruction of the Round Table and the fall of Camelot.  Noseworthy’s sheer energy just blew everybody else out of the water.  Gunn sang very well and with spirit, but this is yet another role where I feel he has matured a bit too much to bring it off convincingly. (I thought the same of his most recent Billy Budd at the Met, as well as his Billy Bigelow at the Philharmonic this past season.  Great singing, but these roles called out for younger folk.)  Indeed, I would have found him more convincing as King Arthur, a role originally written for the non-singing Richard Burton, who basically spoke his way through it rhythmically, although of course Nathan Gunn would have sung through it spectacularly.  Lancelot has to be youthful and brash, and Gunn just looks a bit too mature for that.  I remain a big fan, and always enjoy his singing, but I think he has to give more consideration to the suitability of the roles he is taking.  The show itself has its flaws, with excessive speechifying and preaching, but the music remains prime – lots of solid gold hits – and the performance overall struck me as worthy.

The next night, we had Verdi.  “Un Giorno di Regno,” only the second of his operas to be produced, and a flop that was quickly withdrawn and revived only in modern times, was his first attempt at comedy, not to be tried again until his final work, “Falstaff,” more than half a century later (and with a much better book as inspiration).  Does it work as comedy?  Putting it in English helped, but I thought most of the comedy came from slapstick and staging, not from the text or music as such.  The music proved a melange of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, as the young Verdi had not yet found his individual voice, although there certainly are the intimations of that voice, which would more fully emerge in his next opera and first real hit: “Nabucco”  (which was spectacularly revived at the NY Metropolitan Opera several years ago).   For casting, Glimmerglass drew heavily on their young artist residential program, including the leading role of Belfiore, the Polish nobleman posing as the king (since the actual king, an expected guest for the wedding festivities of Baron Kelbar’s daughter and niece, could not attend due to diplomatic obligations), performed with great flare and artistry by Alex Lawrence who, except for a prior Glimmerglass stint in 2011, has so far made his career mainly in smaller European houses.  An announcement prior to the curtain asked for the audience’s indulgence because Lawrence was not feeling well, but there was no sign of that on stage.  Of the rest of the cast, the real standout by my reckoning was Ginger Costa-Jackson, singing the Marchesa (Belfiore’s old flame who has her suspicions about this “king”) — and her biggest moment was singing while holding a very well-mannered little dog, who seemed very attentive to her!  Joseph Colaneri, who runs the opera program at the Mannes School and has been announced as the new Musical Director for Glimmerglass, led an energetic performance that, we were advised, had been carefully cut to avoid the longeurs typical of early Romantic Italian opera.  As it was, I found the first act a bit too long.

The double bill of Pergolesi and Lang was the event I had been most anticipating.  Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater”  is a favorite – I have several recordings, including one with two countertenors (count ’em, 2!!).  On this occasion, Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, covering the alto part, was partnered with soprano Nadine Sierra, who has been working her way up mainly through U.S. regional houses and did a wonderful job on Saturday night.  Perhaps it is an unfair comparison, but a true countertenor can sound so much more powerful than a soprano, and when Roth Costanzo made his first entry, the power and breadth of his tone tended to put Sierra’s more narrowly-focused sound at a slight disadvantage.  Over the course of the performance things evened out quite a bit, however, as the successions of solos and duets built to an emotional climax and the two soloists blended well when that was called for.  I would love to have had a recording of these singers, with the excellent string orchestra conducted by Speranza Scappucci, an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan who has significant international conducting experience with major companies.  The musical performance from all involved was excellent.

The choreography by Jessica Lang, with a talented ensemble of dancers all drawn from the young artists program (and all in evidence in other operas over the course of the weekend as choristers and dancers), was an integral part of this performance.  Unlike a typical concert or church performance of sacred music with two singers just standing in front of a small string orchestra, we had movement from everybody, singers and dancers alike, intermingling about a set that consisted of two large sticks of wood manipulated from above to form various cross-like images at different angles for each movement.  The “Stabat Mater” is made up of a series of brief movements, each setting a line from a hymn that is a long-established part of the Catholic liturgy, reflecting on the feelings, emotions and thoughts of the Virgin Mary as she stands contemplating the crucifixion of her son.  The dances Lang created for this piece attempted to illuminate those feelings in alliance with the music, and I think largely succeeded, resulting in a cross between traditional story-telling ballet and modern dance.  I found it all very effective.   

After intermission came David Lang’s contribution to the double-bill.  He put together a short piece for the children’s chorus that made an appropriate prologue to the longer piece, and then the “Match Girl” itself, an incredible moving meditative work inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the poor, abused child, sent out by her unfeeling father on a frigid New Year’s Eve trying to peddle her matches, ultimately lying down by a wall and striking match after match in search of heat, hallucinating her late grandmother (the only one who truly loved her) and expiring in a transcendent finale.  The piece is scored for four solo voices and children’s chorus, and the excellent soloists – Julia Mintzer, James Michael Porter, Lisa Williamson and Christian Zaremba, all participants in the young artists program – also briefly played percussion instruments – bass drum and various bells.  Conductor David Moody stood in an otherwise empty orchestra pit, directing the music on stage with intense feeling.  I thought this was actually a rather overwhelming piece when done in a dramatic staging.  I was previously familiar with the recording, but the impact of seeing it enacted by an excellent cast brought the entire thing up several notches.  The program did not identify the girl from the children’s chorus who enacted the part of the Little Match Girl!  They should have, as she was superb.

Finally, the Wagner on Sunday afternoon.  I am not the biggest Wagner fan.  I tend to find his operas too long, the acts too long, the pace trying to my patience, and so I don’t go very often.  (I saw each of the Ring operas in the prior Met production, but avoided the current one.  I have seen their most recent Dutchman, and was bored to tears.)  But I counted on Glimmerglass to produce a meaningful performance, and ultimately I came away reasonably satisfied.  The opera was originally conceived as a three-acter, but ultimately the composer rewrote it as one long span.  Now, that won’t work for Glimmerglass.  In light of the average age of the audience, an intermission is really necessary, and they ended up taking a break about 2/3 of the way through the one-act version, at a convenient breaking point that worked dramatically.  My typical Wagner problem did occur in the first part – I found myself dozing away once or twice – but after the intermission I found myself totally gripped and attentive to the end as the music and drama just seemed tighter and more urgent. 

The stage was set up to simulate a deck of a ship, but with some flexibility with scrims and lighting and a few props that were pressed into service as Daland’s home.  The casting was prime:  Peter Volpe as Daland, Ryan McKinny as the Dutchman, Melody Moore as Senta, and Jay Hunter Morris (fresh from his Met triumph as Siegfried in the last two Ring operas) as Erik.  All of them were superb, but I found McKinny to be really overwhelming – rather young for the Dutchman, but he had the presence for the part as well as the voice, and he was costumed so as to show off his stunning physique.  Supporting roles were well taken by Adam Bielamowicz (Steersman) and Deborah Nansteel (May), young artist program participants.  The young artists program also supplied the chorus, which did an excellent job, especially with the sailors’ joyous celebration at returning to port, imaginatively choreographed by Eric Sean Fogel.  John Keenan’s conducting was anything one could want, holding together the ensemble and propelling it forward expertly to a really transformational conclusion.  Francesca Zambello’s production was much more effective, in my opinion, than the rather static show I saw at the Met.

I would avoid ending with invidious comparisons, since each of the four productions at this year’s Glimmerglass Festival is superb in its own right.  I was most moved by the double-bill, and perhaps least impressed by the Verdi – the piece itself is rather weak.  We were sufficiently inspired to renew for next year on the spot, although we decided to pass up next year’s Broadway musical, “Carousel,” having seen it enough in recent years (NY Philharmonic, Lincoln Center Theatre).  But we are eagerly anticipating the performance of Tobias Picker’s “An American Tragedy,” which we enjoyed at the Metropolitan Opera during its premiere year, and we are looking forward to what they will do to reconceive Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” and R. Strauss’s “Ariadne on Naxos.”  We also renewed on the spot our reservations for the Limestone Mansion in Cherry Valley.  (Bonus enjoyed by my opera-going companion: a nearby restaurant is the after-hours watering hole for the Glimmerglass performers.  I don’t stay up that late, but he went over on Saturday night and hobnobbed with cast members from the double bill that had just been performed. . .)

 The follow-up to Glimmerglass: We visited my opera-going companion’s sister, her husband and son in lovely Elmira, NY, for an overnight.  We also had an interesting excursion during the day on Friday to Norwich, NY, to check out the Northeastern Classic Car Museum – something fun to do while not at the opera – and, as we always try to do, we had a sumptuous repast at the excellent American Hotel dining room in Sharon Springs before the Saturday night performance.  A Glimmerglass vacation would not be complete without dinner at The American Hotel!!)

Countertenor Alerts: Jaroussky, Roth Costanzo and Barna-Sabadus

Posted on: January 20th, 2013 by Art Leonard No Comments

The rising tide of exciting new countertenors is one of the most important offshoots of the early music movement. 

My favorite among the young countertenors is Philippe Jaroussky. I’ve heard him perform at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall with Christina Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata.  I’ve been avidly collecting his recordings for several years now.  Most recently, Virgin Classics has issued a DVD collecting excerpts from video recordings of his concert appearances in France and Germany — many of which have turned up on youtube — and a two-CD tribute album called “The Voice.”  I have only one complaint; having collected all of Jaroussky’s individual CD releases, I already have most of the recordings on “The Voice,” but I felt compelled to buy it because it includes six previously unreleased recordings, including a spectacular performance with Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata of Monteverdi’s Laudate Dominum – presumably recorded for, but left out of, their “Teatro d’Amore” release, probably for reasons of space or subject matter, since that disc is devoted to secular music. 

The other big countertenor news is Jaroussky’s most recent complete opera recording, Leonardo Vinci’s Artaserse, conducted by Diego Fasolis, also on Virgin Classics (this just an audio CD).    This is a real feast for countertenor enthusiasts, since the cast include five (count ’em, five!!) countertenors.  Jaroussky sings the title role, Max Emanuel Cencic, who has become a frequent duet partner with Jaroussky, sings the second lead role of Mandane, Franco Fagioli sings Arbace, Valer Barna-Sabadus sings Semira, and Yuriy Mynenko sings Megabise.  With so many countertenors, you need a scorecard to know who’s singing.  The opera is truly spectacular and deserves a performance revival in the U.S..  I’ve heard that Jaroussky and company have given concert performances in Europe.  Come to NY!

Valer Barna-Sabadus,who sings on the Vinci recording, is a Romanian-born musician who grew up and studied in Germany. He has recently released a solo album that puts him in line to challenge Jaroussky for primacy among the young countertenors.  Called “Hasse Reloaded” (Oehms Classics), the disc includes four arias from Johann Adolph Hasse’s “Didone abbandonata,” the cantata “La Gelosia”, and an insertion aria that Nicola Porpora wrote for use in a London staging of Hasse’s “Artaserse”.  The splendid orchestral accompaniment, provided by Michael Hofstetter and Hofkapelle Munchen, helps to make this a must-hear recording.  Barna-Sabadus is brilliant in this.  At times I thought I was listening to Jaroussky, although the younger man is not quite there yet in terms of injecting some more personality into his singing.  That will develop with experience, I’m sure.  The disc also include the three-movement sinfonia that Hasse wrote as an overture to Didone.

Another recording by Barna-Sabadus worth hearing is “Baroque Oriental” on the Berlin Classics label.  Barna-Sabadus takes on Jaroussky directly with Monteverdi’s “Si dolce e’l tormento,” which Jaroussky sings on Pluhar’s Teatro d’Amore album.  He also sings several other solos by Monteverdi and contemporaries, amidst a program that also provides some Turkish music of the period to provide a multicultural stew. I think Barna-Sabadus is developing quite beautifully – definitely a musician to watch out for.

Another young countertenor who is now being heard frequently in New York is Anthony Roth Costanzo.  I first hear him several years ago, when New York City Opera was still at Lincoln Center and he sang in a Handel production.  His career has really taken off since then, including debuts at the  Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, as well as a summertime production at Glimmerglass.  No CDs to report as of yet, but he can be seen and heard singing in the new DVD release of the Baroque pastiche opera debuted on December 31, 2011, at the Metropolitan Opera, “The Enchanted Island.”  Costanzo’s character only appears in the last act, but he was also “covering” the lead role performed by David Daniels, and got to sing it a few times later in the run.  From what I’ve heard, the Met will be bringing back “The Enchanted Island” next season, and Costanzo will again be singing Ferdinand and “covering” Prospero.  I most recently heard him as an excellent soloist in a performance of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio last month, after attending a thrilling evening he presented together with a NYC Ballet dancer at a smaller venue in New York, and I plan to attend one of his performances at Glimmerglass next summer, when he will sing (and dance) in a staging of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.

And the mention of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater brings me full-circle here, since some on-line research shows that Valer Barna-Sabadus has recorded this piece, which I now have on order. 

It’s a great time for countertenors and those who swoon to their sound.