Gotham Opera and Nico Muhly at Le Poisson Rouge

An Exciting Evening of Song

By: - Oct 15, 2011

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Gotham Chamber Opera
Le Poisson Rouge
New York
October 13, 2011 

Gotham Chamber Opera, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is committed to producing smaller operas with a chamber orchestra.  Neal Goren, its artistic director, defines this as any orchestra "that can fit in the theater we’re performing in – in the pit or on the stage."  

Gotham moves from appropriate venue to venue, on Thursday arriving at Le Poisson Rouge. They put on a charming song and chamber instrument evening with compositions across the ages from Purcell to Nico Muhly.  Did Muhly’s ability to reflect music across time effect the choices?  Perhaps.  In any case, listening to Where ‘ere you walk by Handel and then a Muhly piece,  Muhly’s mix of piano and electronic sounds just as beautiful. 

A piano, mixer and computer, violin and cello occupied the center of the performance space. This evening, violinist Yuki Lee Numata and cellist Clarice Jensen joined the piano center floor to provide brilliant musical textures.  Inventive use of space characterizes the performers who come to Poisson. The show was directed across the Poisson floor and onto its beams.  Two mezzos moved smoothly across the floor toward each other as they sang and ended in a kiss.  Fantastic lyric tenor Michele Angelini circled the piano. All the Gotham singers who took to the floor sang wonderfully. 

Vanessa Cariddi was twice a focal fellow at Tanglewood.  We heard her at Caramoor this summer as a mesmerizing Buttercup and also as a Hedwige full of color and richness.  How arresting she was up close and personal.  Cariddi commands attention with both her big voice and her secure physical presence.  A mezzo to watch. 

Angelini performing an aria from Il Sogno di Scipione sang the challenging lines with beauty.  He will be seen in Gotham’s full production of this opera, composed by Mozart at fifteen, this spring.  Angelini is a Rossini specialist as well and is on the roster at the Met.  He is a wonderful lyric tenor, who takes the most seemingly difficult runs and ornaments as though they were easy. 

As we listened to some Muhly pieces performed by Muhly, the textured lines are exciting and unpredictable, which differentiates him from Philip Glass who he cites as an inspiration.  Glass has said that Muhly has “a curious ear, a restless listening.”  The beat changes throughout his work.  Repetition electronically generated gives a fugal impression.  And on and on with intriguing ideas translated into delicious music.  

Music from Dark Sisters, Muhly’s opera that opens November 9h at the Lynch Theater in New York whets the appetite for the entire show.  This evening at Poisson Rouge was much more than a forecast of the future.  In the here and now the music enchanted.  As the huge Met Opera house becomes more and more a launching pad for HDs where fine voices are no more than number five on the list of qualities an opera performer brings to the stage (or rather screen), the role of companies like Gotham becomes increasingly important.  They make real opera so easy to love.