Archive for opera

L’isola Disabitata: A Night at the Opera-Ray Wofsy

Posted in opera, People of Color with tags , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

This article was written by the wonderful Ray Wofsy

2/18/09- Joseph Haydn’s L’isola disabitata (Desert Island) opens with two sisters, Costanza and Silvia, marooned on a deserted island.  They immediately draw you into their  isolated existence with their gorgeous voices, dramatic lyrics, and the accompaniment of the orchestra.  From the way that they describe their hatred of men, the audience knows it is only a matter of time before men will arrive on their island paradise/prison…

This Gotham Chamber Opera
collaboration with Mark Morris broke my operatic expectations in more ways than one.  I had come expecting a traditional tale of love, heartbreak, and reconciliation, but found that this piece pushed those boundaries in exciting ways.  As with all art, the audience can take from it whatever they want, and I’m sure that people left with a wide range of interpretations.  Some might have departed thinking that this was a beautiful story of love, others that it was two-dimensional and cliché , but I left thinking that it showed the beauty of love, while simultaneously poking fun at romance.  Comic moments punctuated the tragic and romantic scenes, keeping the audience laughing and seeming to point to the following notion: love is true, but it is also funny and perhaps formulaic.  I was impressed that this opera was so arresting, but at the same time did not seem to take itself too seriously.

There were other surprises in the production.  Considering Mark Morris’s fame and success as a choreographer (he formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980, has worked extensively in opera and ballet and won many awards), there was not a lot of dance in this piece.  The singers did use their movements to create drama and beauty within the sparse set, but the focus seemed to be much more on their lyrics and facial expressions than on their body language.  A more positive surprise was that two of the four actors cast in this 1779 traditional Italian opera were African American.  Admittedly, I have not been to the opera since I was seven years old and living in Boston, but this was a refreshing change from the all-white casts I have seen in my limited operatic experiences.  I was also pleased that the Italian lyrics were translated and projected in English above the stage.  This helped me follow what was happening but was also easily ignored when I wanted to just be absorbed in the drama unfolding on the stage.

In the end, I can think of no way I would have rather spent a cold, rainy February night than at L’isola disabitata.  This piece’s exploration of love, friendship, heartbreak, and different ways of viewing the world continues to be inspiring and thought provoking more than two hundred years after it was written.  Was the island a paradise?  A prison?  Was love the savior?  The comic relief?   The singers, artists, orchestra, and directors deserve credit for making this play so striking.  I only hope that I, like this play, can continue to laugh through the seriousness of life and love.

Quantum of Solace

Posted in film, opera, People of Color with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow, first of all what is up with filmic references to Tosca, after the scene in Milk, where Harvey Milk attends a performance of Tosca and then dies flashing back to it, while starring at the Tosca banner advertisement on the San Fransisco Opera House, visible outside of his window. A man who played in the real performance that Harvey attended 30 years ago, and 2 days before he died, had this to say about it. Strange coincidence, now I really want to see Tosca, being as it is that I have become quite the budding young opera fan as of late! Really. I swear the funny thing about high art vs low art is that there are so many striking similarities, in terms of plot and design. Although the music at the Opera tends to be far better than the suspenseful elevator tunes, which are used to score soap operas, as I remember from watching after school at a friend’s house, the drama in Passions was not that different from the conflict in Tristan und Isolde (the last Opera that I attended.)

Strange coincidence aside,  the Tosca scene was definitely one of the highlight of the latest James Bond incarnation. Don’t ask me to explain the tittle, because it really makes no sense to me, but this is what happens in the film: Bond, meets a Bolivian agent, who has been trying to infiltrate her way to the man who killed her father, raped her mother and sister, and left a burn scar on her back. He is a Bolivian military leader, who overthrew the previous dictatorship, which her father was a leading member of. Bond crosses paths with her on his mission to track down a secret crime organization, which is working against the British secret service and with a man named Greene, who is essentially a water pirate, posing as an environmentalist. Greene, buys up the natural water supply in countries like Bolivia, and then sells it back to the people at astronomical prices. He is willing to install any government that will allow him to do so, and he gets the American government on side, by promising them imaginary oil stores. The best thing about this plot is that it is so now, so reality! I mean, yes, several details have been changed to ensure dramatic sex and fight scenes, but the Bolivian water crisis is pretty real, and American oil greed, I don’t know how they thought of that one!

I also really appreciated the reference to Alice in Wonderland, “This one will make you taller, this one will make you…” However, I am a little confused by the fact that the Bolivian vixen is played by a Ukranian actress, would it hurt to cast a real live person of color? Jeffery Wright is in the film though, one point in their favor. He’s a great actor and I’m glad to see him in more than one currently released Hollywood film. He’s getting almost as much airtime as Tosca!

Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera

Posted in opera, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Last night I went to see the opening of Daniel Barenboim’s production of Richard Wagner‘s Tristan und Isolde (itself an interpretation of Shakespeare) at the Metropolitan Opera. The opera was five hours, and well, what can i say…It’s a love story, which is more about loss than anything else. Wagner said before writing it, that he had never truly experienced love. Interesting. Maybe that’s why the love depicted is so tragic. Tragic love and tragic death. When the third and final act ends, Isolde is surrounded by Tristan and his two best friends, dead. Perhaps the type of love that Wagner most understood was homeogenic love, as Carpenter called it, better known as homosexuality. Shoot me for saying this, but why didn’t Isolde follow Tristan to death as she promised she would. It ends with her dying, apparently from grief, but not a sword to the chest like Tristan’s two best mates took. I digress…the point is, even if we assume the premise and believe that the man and woman were the only true lovers on set, why should love destroy us? I believe that desperation is not synonymous with passion and strive to see love instead as a sustainable site of healing. love many, love one, love for living, not as a form of torture!

Dr Atomic, GetOutOfMyFacebook

Posted in Guide to What's Good, opera, word of the day with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I saw Dr Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera this afternoon. The Opera was written in 2005 about Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who invented the Atomic Bomb. He is painted as a modern day Faust. A heroic villain, distinctly human, but made mad by the zealousness of discovery and dominance. Oppenheimer is pictured referring to the bomb, pre-test, as a great “luminescence.” He focuses on its momentary beauty, not the destruction that it will yield, or the fact that as the Germans have already surrendered, its use is no longer necessary or potentially justifiable. Serving as a valuable history lesson, Dr Atomic informs the audience of the semi-mutiny at Los Alamos. Apparently many of the other scientists on Oppenheimer’s team did not want to use the weapon against Japan, without warning, at such a late stage of the war. Additionally, we learn that paradoxically, Oppenheimer, warmonger that he was, was also a highly literate lover of the arts. He spoke several languages, adored poetry, often read the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit and Baudelaire in French. He composed sonnets in his spare time! The poems that he so loved are incorporated into the opera. Ultimately he is faulted for masterminding such immense destruction, but there are a few too many warm and fuzzys given to the father of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Opera is really fun, for those who haven’t given it a go, I recommend trying. The met has a lot of discount options, like student rush, standing room and HD projections at movie theaters.

The word of the day is Getoutofmyfacebook: A new web 2.0 application currently being developed by haters.

The Women Generals of the Yang Family and Introducing BS Agent Angie

Posted in Guide to What's Good with tags , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Just to get it out of the way first, I saw a great Peking Opera today. If you’ve never been, give it a try the next time that chance comes your way, which may not be for awhile. These folks came direct to NYU from China and it may be a once a year type gig. When I previewed it on Flavorpill, I predicted great costumes and cool backdrops, that was def. the case. There were also crazy drum beats, shrill high notes and awesome back flips, which bolstered the extremely feminist plot. Basically a hundred year old grandma, leads an army of women and they kick the imperialist enemies out. Go Bubby!

Now, with great pleasure I must announce Agent Angie, as promised, I will be rolling out other writers as I go and now its time for Angie to take the stage. No, she doesn’t wear high-tech kimonos and do triple flips, but she does have a keen eye for culture and from now on will be a valued agent of Brooklyn Socialite reportage.

Get Ready! Here’s her first post.