Sunday, December 4, 2016


Five things you need to know about the Met’s Live in HD of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. on December 3, 2016.

1.  The Magic Flute was the first broadcast that launched the Met’s award winning series Live in HD  to movie theaters in 2006.   A hundred operas since then, Live in HD has proven to be a resounding success.  And it all started with that magic moment when The Magic Flute kicked it off ten years ago.

2.  This production is filled with opera legendaries.  Director Julie Taymour,  Maestro James Levine, and an ensemble cast –  Nathan Gunn, Ying Huang, Matthew Polenzani, Erika Miklosa, and René Pape—all  together create a magical stage event.

3.  Tenor Matthew Polenzani might be the prince hero of the opera but guess who takes the honors as being one of the sexiest men alive;  Papageno, his sidekick unwilling bird catcher.   

People magazine labeled baritone Nathan Gunn that in 2008.  Gunn is a real  barihunk or hunkitone —so his lines about wishing for a girlfriend  as Papageno seem even sillier now.

4.   Soprano Ying Huang is a beautiful Pamino but YouTube, which also started around 10 or so years ago,  assures  that Erika Miklosa continues to really be Queen of the Night.

5.  In the same year  as this Met version, Rene Pape was Sarastro  in Kenneth Kenneth Branagh’s movie which sets the opera in WWI.  Wow! He owns that role (as he does so many others).

Now that the facts have checked, enjoy the magic when a 200 year old opera is experienced thorough 20th century technology in a  place — where the silly meets the sublime—the ever now The Magic Flute by Mozart. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI Is this not a never-ending tale?

The world’s leading baritone, Simon Keenlyside not only made his Met role debut as Don Giovanni, in Mozart’s masterpiece, he had a few things to point out in the intermission about what many viewers might already had in their mind—how relevant the theme is to the modern media headlines.

For a history refresher,  Don Giovanni opened in 1787, a few weeks before Delaware was the first state ratified the American Constitution,  and on the eve of the French revolution.   It was years ahead of Darwin’s Origin of Species. 

However he did not have to remind us that the news is filled with debates about what the US constitution (from Supreme Court to Presidential elections)  as well as filled with high profile stories of sexual allegations. 

 Keenlyside, a Cambridge graduate, could probably have talked about this for as long as the opera, but he had to go back on to Act II which shows Mozart’s solution to such flagrancy.  

There is no controversy that Keenlyside’s voice is a treasure—and that  his acting ability and his athleticism add a dynamism that makes his Don Giovanni all too real.

The superb cast included Hibla Gerzmava as Donna Anna and Malin Byström as Donna Elvira,  with Adam Plachetka as Leporello and Matthew Rose as Masetto,  Interesting to note that these roles are often traded, that is sopranos who sing Donna Anna might in another production sing Donna Elvira, and ditto with Leporello and Masetto. Paul Appleby was both strong and tender as Don Ottavio, Serena Malfi  utterly delightful as the wise peasant girl Zerlina.  Kwangchul Youn as the Commendatore was formidably scary

Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi led the orchestra and cast in this staging by Tony-Award winner Michael Grandage.

Met simulcast views also got a taste of what the next opera, Saariaho's L’Amour de Loin which will be presented live in select cinemas nationwide on Saturday, December 10 


Look!  That’s an interesting Diebenkorn.

Oh, gee! it’s a Matisse. French Window at Collioure (1914).

That is not the only surprise at  the Baltimore Museum of Arts’ Matisse/ Diebenkorn (Jan. 29, 2017), where the works of the two artists are interspersed throughout.

The first Matisse that Diebenkorn saw  was at a luncheon at the home of the Steins in California.  Matisse’s portrait Sarah Stein (1916), is the starting point for this exhibition.

It was love at first sight, but the true connection developed later when Diebenkorn was stationed at Quantico and visited the Phillips Gallery, the National Gallery of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art. 

The exhibit contains  36 paintings and drawings by Matisse and 56 by Diebenkorn, The journey follows the chronology of Diebenkorn’s career from representational paintings to abstract and then back to conceptual art.  It ends with his most celebrated Ocean Park series.

The works are arranged  so one can  draw one’s own conclusions about their relationships. One suggested way is to select a favorite piece in each gallery and work around it to see the interplay of ideas.  

My own favorite work is Matisse’s View of Notre Dame (1914), at the midpoint of the show.  One can analyze it for color and form, but this work is so much more then a dissection of its parts.   

 While they never met in real life, Diebenkorn’s admiration of  Matisse spanned his career.  The exhibit includes works  that Diebenkorn saw at Matisse exhibits in his lifetime and  which continued to inform his work.

It is worth noting that Diebenkorn  did not simply borrow techniques from Matisse, but rather than he let Matisse’s thoughts take root.  On  display throughout the galleries, are cases featuring over 40 volumes that he owned and studied about Matisse.

 Matisse of course influenced many artists and Diebenkorn was influenced by others than Matisse.  An interesting conversational point was that that Matisse at the end of the exhibit might not have been a finished work. When one looks at the influence he had on subsequent modern artists, not only Diebenkorn, it is clear that his true artistic vision which inspired them, is part of his great unfinished legacy.

Friday, October 14, 2016

an opera about medieval lovers 
for modern lovers of opera 

Tristan und Isolde,  probably had more viewers then ever in a single performance on Met Simulcast on Oct 8 than in composer Richard Wagner’s life time. I have no concrete numbers to support that statement—but it is a likely possibility  as this is the way opera is viewed by the most people today.

Wagner took a medieval legend, turned it into a story for 19th century sensibilities.  The Met has gone further with a production with modern technological touches.  

I thought as I listened, how modern is this music, and perhaps it was because I was seeing the scenes now set in a three level ship and then  in a warehouse and finally in  a hospital room. Perhaps it was because Wagner’s music has had such influence on what was written  after him.  But there was no doubt in my mind, that if Wagner had indeed just composed this giant work, he would steamroll any modern composer writing today. 

And then I had a reverse thought— What might Wagner think of this production, he who was so precise about every word — to now see that the translations were flashed on the screen in English.   Would he be pleased with this outstanding Wagnerian opera stars of today, Nina Stemme as Isolde, Stuart Skelton as Tristan, Ekaterina Gubanova as Brangäne, René Pape as King Marke, and Sir Simon Rattle conducting 

Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Met, said this was the 11th year of Simulcast, the 100th opera performed, and the opening production of the 50th anniversary of the Met at Lincoln Center.  The choice of Tristan und Isolde was to have something big, with the greatest stars today, and then broadcast it live from the giant stage to the giant screen. 

This is as big as it gets.  Mega genius that he was,  bets are that Wagner would have loved it!  



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Urinetown The Musical 
at Constellation Theatre Company.

Pay toilets are no joke in many parts of the world.  Neither is corporate mismanagement run amok with crooked lawmakers and corrupt  policemen.  But no need to read dry political theorists on such a subject,  when you can see  Urinetown at Constellation!

Urinetown’s  premise is that not only do all human have a right to be free, but everyone has a right to pee for free.  

It makes it case by exploiting every form of humor  possible from word puns to super metaphors. It incorporates satirical take offs of moments from decades of musicals (to name a few: The Threepenny Opera. The Cradle will Rock,  Le Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Chicago, Annie.)  And it takes self-deprecating asides, on what a musical is expected to do (star crossed lovers yes,  but no happy ending in this one.)  

The Tony award winning show is clever  for sure, but  one that requires a company  with high energy and super talents to bring it all together.  Constellation has done it again!

Here are the facts:

Music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann
Book and lyrics by Greg Kotis 
Director: Allison Arkell Stockman 
Choreographer: Ilona Kessell 
Music Director: Jake Null

Ensemble: Nicklas Aliff* (Caldwell B. Cladwell), Jenna Berk (Little Sally), Matt Dewberry* (Officer Lockstock), Patrick Murphy Doneghy (Old Man Strong/Hot Blades Harry), Christine Nolan Essig* (Penelope Pennywise), Vaughn Ryan Midder (Bobby Strong), Katie Keyser (Hope Cladwell), David Landstrom (Tiny Tom/Dr. Billeaux), Matthew McGee (Senator Fipp), Amy McWilliams* (Josephine Strong/UGC Staff), Christian Montgomery (Officer Barrel), Valerie Adams Rigsbee (Soupy Sue/UGC Secretary), Harrison Smith (Mr. McQueen), Emily Madden (Little Becky Two-Shoes/Mrs. Millenium), Rick Westerkamp (Robbie the Stockfish/UGC Staff).           *Member, Actors’ Equity Association

Design and Production: A.J. Guban (Scenic & Lighting Designer), Robert Croghan (Costume Designer), Ilona Kessell (Choreographer), Palmer Hefferan (Sound Designer), Kevin Laughon (Props Designer), Nick Martin (Assistant Director), Robert Mintz (Assistant Choreographer).

Understudies: Christopher Gillespie, Bobby Libby, Maggie Roos, Sarah Anne Sillers, Carl Williams.

For tickets : or Call 202-204-7741

Thursday, July 14, 2016


No one goes away empty handed from Hand to God.

Studio Theatre’s production of the five time Tony nominated Broadway show is set in its natural habit—a small Southern town’s church basement.   It is an unexpected surprise to step in to the theater and see it re-fashioned with  pale yellow cinderblock wall  lined with religious posters.   Mount Logan Lutheran Church of Cypress, Texas, looked so familiar.  

The plot is simple  enough—Margery (Susan Rome) is a recent widow trying to stage a puppet show, with her son Jason and his puppet Tyrone (Liam Fore, both roles).   Pastor Greg (Tim Getman) and  a delinquent teenager Timothy  (Ryan McBride) both have the hots for her.  Jason wants to go out with Jessica (Caitlin Collins)  who is in a verbal war with Timothy.  

Like a three ring circus— the main action is in the center of the church hall, complete with its own stage.  The side rings are the refreshment stand and a back stage which is used for alternate scenes in Margery’s car, Jason’s bedroom or Pastor Greg’s study.

The audience sits in the middle of all this, at blue plastic checkered clothed tables  (maybe a little too clean and tidy for a much used facility for church plays and suppers!)    Each table has a supply of white socks and puppet making material along with instructions.

As the practice for the church sponsored puppet show starts, so the story unfolds.  

Tyrone appears to be possessed by demonic forces.  

But maybe not.  

Maybe what spews from his mouth are Jason’s inner thoughts wanting to bust out from the grief at his father’s death and his estrangement from his doting mother, his frustrations with growing up and his hots for Jessica  

 Teenage angst or a search for the authentic?   


A reversal from theater in the round with the physical and psychic actions  going on around the audience —who mercifully is not asked to participate in this fast moving, foul mouthed,  somewhat sexually explicit but most definitely violently blood and gore— comedy.

The theological conondrum posed is over man’s need for both a god savior and a rampant destructive devil.  

Tyrone offers the introduction and the summary to the play in what might be a voice of reasonable philosophers.  

Add some modern psychology for a  framework for compassion and understanding for the fragile angels of our inner selves.  

Hand to God —an experience to remember! And you get to take home the sock puppet you make to make sure you do!

At The Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW, Washington DC until Aug. 7, 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


NOTHING BUT THE HITS  Part 2  was nothing but the BEST! 

The Heights Players, Brooklyn’s oldest self-sustaining community theater, has done it again! 

For their Gala ending their 59th year, they selected some three dozen of American musical theater’s greatest hits for performances on June 10-12. 

The singing was pitch perfect and the tap dancing  tiptop as  two dozen Heights Players danced and sang through decades of songs. 

Under the direction of Thomas Tyler and Ed Healy,  the show moved  quickly  from one production number to the next.  Cast members shined in a fabulous progression through the show with Musumi Iwai adding some  delightful surprise acrobatics to her ballet number.

Stand outs  include the choreography of Aurora Dreger,  the song stylings of newcomer Jonathan Merechant,  and the superb vocals of Rachel Coffin and Ivis Fundichely

David Fletcher’s  musical arrangements —from “There’s No Business like Show Business’ to the finale of “Yesterday,”  “Today” and “Tomorrow” — sewed together seamlessly the ageless spirit of love and hope that these songs shared.

 What a treat it was later that night of June 12 to see the Tony awards—it’s only 30 minutes away from Brooklyn to Broadway— to remember that I had heard many of these songs just that afternoon on Willow Street.

While The Heights Players might not be winning Tony Awards,  they win the hearts of musical lovers in spirited, highly professional and LIVE performance.  

WHAT: 2015-16 SEASON
WHERE:  26 Willow Place, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201  - phone 718-237-2752

Ed Healy, Michael Blake, James Martinelli, Mykel Frank, Jonathan Merechant, Sean Dearing, Maureen Vidal, Faith Elliott, Dana DiAngelo, Michelle Maccarone, Masumi Iwai, Aurora Dreger, Cait Farrell, Maria Elisa Costa, and Isabella Prince. Veterans: Bill Wood, Jim McNulty. Ivis Fundichely, Cathy Lemmon, and Lacey Friedman.  First timers: Rantea Thompson and Rachel Coffin.

The production coordinated, written and directed by Thomas N. Tyler. 
 Musical director: David Fletcher, with percussionist Daryl Cozzi.  
 Direction: Ed Healy 
Choreography: Sean Dearing, Aurora Dreger and Cait Farrell. 
Production Stage Manager: Marialana Ardolino 
Lighting designer:  Leo J. Contrino 
Event coordinator: Corrine Contrino, with  Jill Lewis-Kelly and Jan VanderPutten.