Friday, October 14, 2011

A perfect evening

My brother Michael and my adopted grandfather Gene joined me for the really lovely evening of music that was Nico's "conspiring" with Gotham Chamber Opera at (Le) Poisson Rouge. I really like going to stuff at that place: it is intelligently and comfortably cabaret-style, with lots of bathrooms and food and drink served at the table (the wait staff couldn't circulate so well in this configuration as in some others, so there were delays in table-clearing and follow-up, but nothing to mar the very substantial pleasures of the ear that were on offer). I had in the end bought tickets for all three of us, but the press agent had invited Gene to attend, and had reserved for us what were probably the best seats in the house: we were about ten feet away from the piano, with a very direct view of Nico or whoever else was sitting at the keyboard and performers standing close enough that you could see the amazing vibrations of the glottis (?) that characterize operatic singing.

A couple arias from the Dark Sisters opera (it is the most amazing music, I can hardly wait to hear the whole thing again in November), set into selections of all sorts that highlighted various aspects either of Nico's choral writing or of the singers' strengths: the first bit was Purcell's "Evening Hymn," the last was the evening song from Philip Glass's Satyagraha, a revelation to me (I had never heard it before!). One of the other highlights was a really extraordinary performance of Ravel's sonata for violin and cello by Yuki Lee Numata and Clarice Jensen. I am not a lover of the violin, really, but I was blown away by Numata's performance - she is incredible, definitely a performer to watch for...

(The opera company director Neal Goren accompanied many of the singers, which I think is rightly his prerogative but which caused me to reflect that he played the piano like someone to whom the modern instrument is wholly foreign, he must have trained as an organist rather than a pianist - definitely a thumper rather than a stroker of the ivories - the shortcomings were particularly clear in the aria from Mozart's Il Sogno di Scipione, with terrible approximate bashings-out of notes and wild thumping just behind tempo!... Really in NYC you can almost certainly find on every street corner a superb accompanist who could do a good job with this sort of thing on short notice, but I guess it would give a different character to the evening, so it seems a fair trade-off.)

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