PROTOTYPE: David Lang's "anatomy theater"

by Annette Gold 

Anatomy theater
“Where is evil?” sings Baron Peel (the booming, authoritative Robert Osborne), described as a “distinguished anatomist of talent and experience” by his contemporaries. Peel knowingly responds, “You can’t hide it…you can’t stop it.” And then he plunges a knife into a defenseless naked woman.

“Post mortem, of course.”

Such is the mood of the 90-minute absurd romp that is anatomy theater: a piece that effortlessly bridges Gilbert & Sullivan and Philip Glass into a feminist, satirical piece worthy of any stage. Especially in today’s reawakening of populist control over women’s health, the statement that women deserve more than the benefit of the doubt (like, for starters, an opinion) belongs in neon, in patter, in repetitions, in themes of hyperbole.

The show began in the lobby – at first, admittedly, I thought it was a tired trick: extras dressed as 15th-century peasants directed guests to different parts of the lobby for an interactive preshow. Then, the murderess Sarah Osborne (growled by Peabody Southwell) was led in shackles through the crowd signaling the start of the show. We all filtered into the black box, an ideal venue for such a piece to resonate intimately, to find Sarah on a box below a noose. The audience took a moment to gawk and settle into their seats. The extras filled in the sides of the theater – their participation transformed the stark space into a medieval enclave; with eye contact easy and the fourth wall broken, the murderess’ desperation was quite palpable before a single note rang out.

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Brooklyn Chamber Music Society Presents Mozart, Beethoven, and Fauré

by Nick Stubblefield

ShaiWosner

On cold, windy Brooklyn nights in January, warming up can be daunting. New Yorkers, like moths to a light, find comfort in small spaces — closer quarters means more body heat. Take the cozy McKinney Chapel of the First Unitarian Church, a warm, welcoming, and acoustically lively urban nook with stained glass panels overhead and hardwood floors underfoot.  This past weekend, an enthusiastic, intimate community of music lovers (young and old) stepped inside, ready to shake off the chill, relax and savor masterworks from three beloved composers, Mozart, Beethoven, and Fauré. 

The Brooklyn Chamber Music Society, a non-profit organization headquartered in Brooklyn Heights, presented a string quartet, consisting of Scott St. John on violin and viola, Carmit Zori on Violin, Daniel Phillips, viola, and Julia Lichten, cello. Shai Wosner provided accompaniment at the piano. The program opened with Mozart’s own quintet arrangement of his Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major. The strings played with precision, enthusiasm, and Mozart-appropriate frolic. While piano concertos are a cornerstone of the major orchestras, hearing one in this up-close chamber setting was a different, equally rewarding experience.  The ensemble’s expressive, dynamic playing was perfectly suited to the room and audience; tender moments were soft, and loud moments had more impact. Meanwhile the resonance of the strings, especially from the larger-framed cello, was a sonic feast for the ears. Seeing the intense focus reflected in the musicians’ facial expressions, watching the intricate fingering and bowing, one could appreciate the artistry in what is perceived as the simple joy of making music.

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Preview: Staatskapelle Berlin's Bruckner Cycle at Carnegie Hall

Tonight, the Berlin Staatskapelle kicks off an unprecedented nine concert survey of Anton Bruckner's complete symphonies at Carnegie Hall. Led by music director Daniel Barenboim - who incredibly made his Carnegie debut 60 years ago tomorrow - the concerts will also feature six of Mozart's late piano concertos, which Barenboim will lead from the piano. We won't be at all nine concerts - that's a bit much even for a Bruckner fanatic like me - but I'll be there tonight for the rarely heard Symphony No. 1, along with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27. Tickets and additional info available on Carnegie's website.


PROTOTYPE Festival: Breaking the Waves

by Annette GoldBreakingthewaves(All pics by Steven Pisano)

Following it's world premiere at Opera Philadelphia in September, the much-hyped Breaking the Waves had its New York City debut at the Skirball Center at NYU last Friday night as part of the PROTOTYPE Festival. Going into it, I was skeptical—would the piece be a salacious shocker with nudity and profanity, or would it be a revelation? The answer: it is bafflingly not greater than the sum of its parts, despite exquisite composing and lyrical, if not virtuosic, singing.

As a disclaimer, I’ll share that I haven’t seen the movie. I felt that would actually be better, since I wanted to experience firsthand what I had heard would be a very powerful story. Operas should have powerful stories. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to remain confused for most of the performance, due at least in part to the stuck, postured direction by James Darrah.

The opera seemed most free in the little moments of joyful characterization allotted to the doomed protagonist Bess, brilliantly sung by Kiera Duffy, whose Scottish accent and paradoxical gamine naïveté were never a burden. Composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek gift us with an all-male Greek chorus of sorts; it seemed Mr. Darrah could have left the posturing to them to highlight their contrast with the protagonists, a sort of ‘perspective of the masses’ versus that of the ‘other.’

That is not to say the piece was ineffective. It surely had shock value—Ms. Duffy was completely nude a handful of times, and her character’s husband, Jan, both bellowed and crooned by John Moore, was naked in enough positions to leave nothing to imagination. The nudity was obviously intended to be an important expository choice, but it felt gratuitous and gave us no insight about either character’s true desires. The inexplicable connection between the love interests was only more confusing as Jan exploited Bess’s kindness by encouraging her liaisons with every member of the chorus, accompanied by more nudity.

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