OPERA OMNIA PRESENTS FRANCESCO CAVALLI’S GIASONE
Company returns after 3-year recession-induced hiatus with city’s most modest economic stimulus package
On September 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 at 7:00 PM, Opera Omnia returns to Le Poisson Rouge to present Francesco Cavalli’s Giasone, fully staged, in an English edition by Paul C. Echols (originally prepared for the Mannes Camerata in 1987). Wesley Chinn, General Manager and Artistic Director of the company (now—for anyone who remembers Opera Omnia’s last press release—apparently willing to quote himself), describes the production as, among other things, “a tiny economic stimulus package. As a new company with no overhead, we had the liberty of spending no money and doing no productions. This kind of thinking, though, on a global level, is part of what’s responsible for our continuing economic woes, so we see undertaking a production as, among other things, our tiny way of helping the economy. From a liberal point of view, this is economic stimulus, taking money out of the hands of the relatively well-off and giving it to poor artists who will spend it immediately; from a conservative point of view, this is a chance to demonstrate supply-side economics in action.”
The company has been on a three-year recession-induced hiatus since 2008’s sold-out run of The Coronation of Poppea (also at Le Poisson Rouge) about which Classics Today raved “Virtually every aspect of this production leaves an audience desiring more,” and which Out in Jersey called “a crowd pleaser.” The New York Times said “there was a lot to be said for its directness” while calling us “a serious entry in the ranks of small-bore companies in New York” and the Wall Street Journal said “there were no barriers to comprehension….the audience of about 220 seemed riveted.” This production features the return of Hai-Ting Chinn and Cherry Duke (who the Times referred to as “the company’s firepower,” joined by a cast including soprano Katharine Dain, tenors Karim Sulayman and Isai Jess Morales, baritone Matthew Singer, and bass Nathan Baer.
Le Poisson Rouge was just opening as Opera Omnia presented our first show. In the intervening years, the club has grown into an integral part of the New York music scene, and we hope our return there will be the next step in cementing our own place in the city’s artistic landscape.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Giasone was perhaps the 17th century’s most-performed opera, and in it we can see the 17th-century Venetian style (of which Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea is the best-known example to modern audiences) in its full maturity, seamlessly mixing speech-like recitative with frequent short tunes (ariosi, for the musicologically inclined). The style exhibits the typical 17th-century mixture of the serious with the absurd (well-known to modern audiences in the comic scenes in Shakespeare’s tragedies), in this case interspersing a more-or-less serious plot that sees Jason delaying his quest for the Golden Fleece while he dallies with an unseen lover and is pursued by his abandoned wife with sub-plots involving amorous maids and a stuttering hunchback (there was a Venetian dwarf who was so skilled in his portrayal of this character that he was written into most of the Venetian operas of the time). These Venetian operas, performed during Carnival, attracted mass audiences of the paying public, and represented about as close as opera companies have ever come to being able to support themselves on ticket sales (we only wish we could do the same!).
Opera Omnia seeks to update this aesthetic by presenting our opera in a fashion more akin to what audiences today expect from a play (or perhaps a musical) than most opera. The use of English translation and the small space makes the text readily comprehensible, and in keeping with the 17th-century fashion, our costumes will have as much to do with contemporary fashion as with historical ideas, with the aim of serving the musical drama rather than being a distracting “concept.” This production will honor the musical material as well as the venue by drawing on elements of 17th-century silhouettes, vaudeville street theater, Greenwich Village vintage punk, and cabaret variety shows to serve the drama of the story (or else wind up as a hot mess, but we certainly hope not). Meanwhile, our historically-informed approach using period instruments will present Cavalli’s score in service of and partnership with the action on stage.
Paul C. Echols, who died in 1994, was for many years the director of the Mannes Camerata, prepared several English-language editions of 17th-century operas, which he presented at Mannes. These editions were (and are) notable for their combination of scholarship and also their effectiveness. This edition of Giasone was originally presented in 1987 by the Mannes Camerata, and it brings out the bawdy humor and colloquial accessibility of Cavalli’s original, while the changes Echols made (including a myriad of cuts and transpositions) are firmly in keeping with 17th-century ideas about the relative importance of adhering to a canonical text versus preparing a rendition that works for the performers one has at hand. We hope that this performance will be a fitting tribute to Echols’s legacy of English-language baroque opera in the city.
Avi Stein (Music Director) teaches harpsichord, vocal repertoire, and chamber music at Yale University and is the music director at St. Matthew & St. Timothy Episcopal Church in Manhattan. The New York Times described him as “a brilliant organ soloist” in his Carnegie Hall debut and he was recently featured in Early Music America magazine in an article on the new generation of leaders in the field. Avi has performed throughout the United States, in Europe, Canada, and Central America. He is an active continuo accompanist who plays regularly with the Boston Early Music Festival, the Trinity Church Wall Street Choir and Baroque Orchestra, the Clarion Music Societym and Bach Vespers NYC. This past summer, Avi directed the young artists’ program at the Carmel Bach Festival. Avi has also conducted a variety of ensembles including the Opera Français de New York, Opera Omnia’s Coronation of Poppea and a critically acclaimed annual series called the 4×4 Festival. Avi is currently finishing his doctoral studies in organ and harpsichord at Indiana University and holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Southern California, and was a recipient of a Fulbright scholarship for study in Toulouse.
Crystal M. Manich (Stage Director ) has been praised for “staging charged with nuance” and “visually impacting pictures”. In addition to Giasone, Crystal’s upcoming directing projects include La Traviata for Pittsburgh Opera and Lyric Opera of Baltimore, and L’elisir d’amore for Utah Opera. She recently directed a new production of Handel’s Rinaldo for Pittsburgh Opera—in keeping with her interest of staging 17th and 18th century drama—in which “the most striking aspect of the staging was the way Manich used lighting and stage manner” (Tribune-Review ). Her production of La Bohème for Utah Opera received praise for “the fabulous look of this updated staging” (Salt Lake Tribune). She was also recognized for her “supreme taste, deep knowledge of the work and conceptual clarity” along with “impacting visual pictures” for her production of Madama Butterfly for Buenos Aires Lírica in Argentina in 2010. She is co-founder and co-Artistic Director of Opera Omnia, whose inaugural production of The Coronation of Poppea received many accolades. Crystal toured with Cirque du Soleil in Brazil and has served as assistant director on over two dozen opera productions over the last six years with various opera companies in the US. Degrees: BFA in Drama and Master of Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Mezzo-soprano Cherry Duke (Jason) has been praised for her “striking voice-acting and stage movement” in leading roles such as Carmen, Nerone in The Coronation of Poppea, Jo March in Adamo’s Little Women, and Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia. Additionally, she has sung the title roles in Hansel and Gretel and Der Rosenkavalier as well as leading mezzo-soprano roles inIl barbiere di Siviglia, Le nozze di Figaro, Madama Butterfly, Die Zauberflöte, Falstaff, Rigoletto, The Mikado, La Traviata, L’enfant et les sortileges, and The Love for Three Oranges. Cherry has performed many roles with New York City Opera and traveled with them to Japan for Little Women and Madama Butterfly. In the 2010–2011 season she continued on the roster of New York City Opera, covering the Notary’s Wife in Intermezzo. Miss Duke is frequently involved in cross-over and brand-new works. As a soloist in several seasons of New York City Opera’s VOX concerts, she has sung a variety of styles, including roles in Scott Davenport Richards’ jazz opera, Charlie Crosses the Nation and Gordon Beeferman’s post-modern Ratland. At Bard’s SummerScape Festival and Joe’s Pub she was featured in Carl Hancock Rux and Diedre Murray’s “cabaret opera,” The Blackamoor Angel. Miss Duke also thrives in classic musical theater, having played Nellie Forbush in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific with Ash Lawn Opera Festival. Recent new music performances include Sally Rogers in the premiere of Salerni’s The Life and Love of Joe Coogan, Olive in the world premiere of Dellaria’s The Secret Agent with Center for Contemporary Opera, as well as roles in NYCO’s 2011 VOX Contemporary American Opera Lab and the Yale Institute of Music Theatre.
American mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn (Medea) performs in a wide range of styles and venues, from Purcell to Pierrot Lunaire, Cherubino to The King & I, J.S. Bach to P.D.Q. Bach. In the title role of the Wooster Group’s production of Francesco Cavalli’s La Didone, the Scotsman called her “glorious, poised, and poignant,” and Timeout New York said of her: “Chinn has it all: breathtaking beauty, poise, comic timing and a voice of pure gold.” Recent operatic roles include Hansel in Hansel and Gretel with Lyric Opera of San Diego, Aloès in Chabrier’s L’Étoile with New York City Opera, Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte with Dell’Arte Opera, and Poppea in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea with Opera Omnia. She has been heard as soloist with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Israel Philharmonic, and St. Luke’s Chamber Players; in J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion with the Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola, as Dido in Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the Rebel Baroque Orchestra, in the Waverly Consort’s Christmas Story, in P.D.Q. Bach’s Liebeslieder Polkas with Peter Schickele, and as Lady Thiang in The King & I on London’s West End. She regularly premieres vocal works by various composers, and sings with ensembles including the Proteus Ensemble, New York Collegium, the New York Virtuoso Singers, and the VOX vocal ensemble. She has premiered roles in new operas including Du Yun’s Zolle at the New York City Opera VOX festival, Jonathan Dawe’s Cracked Orlando, Matthew Schickele’s Marymere, Conrad Cumming’s The Golden Gate, Yoav Gal’s Moshe, Gregory Spear’s Paul’s Case, and Stefan Weisman’s Darkling. Ms. Chinn grew up in Northern California and holds degrees from the Eastman and Yale Schools of Music.
Soprano Katharine Dain (Hipsipyle) has been praised by the New York Times for her “rich tone,” “deep emotion,” and “lovely, passionate” performances. Her opera credits include Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), the title role of Cavalli’s La Calisto, and numerous roles in the operas of Purcell, Handel, and contemporary composers, including several premieres. She also has extensive experience in oratorio and concert music from all periods. She has worked with Ash Lawn Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera, Alexandria Symphony, Ravinia Festival (where she was a 2009 Steans Fellow), Songfest (where she was a 2011 Stern Fellow), Amherst Early Music Festival, Collegiate Chorale, Mark Morris Dance Group, New York City Ballet, Joy in Singing, and the New York Festival of Song in venues including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. She has co-founded two acclaimed chamber groups in New York: Callisto Ascending, a period-instrument ensemble, and Lunatics at Large, a contemporary chamber group lauded as “young, energetic and highly polished” by senior Times critic Allan Kozinn. She holds degrees from Harvard University, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and Mannes College of Music. www.katharinedain.com
Producer Wesley Chinn has been involved with early music since taking up baroque violin in high school, and has been an arts administrator of one sort or another for nearly as long. As founder of the Harvard Early Music Society, he produced several early baroque operas in English translation; the Boston Globe said of the group “this group bears watching: it is serious, funny, and smart.” He also worked at the Boston Early Music Festival in a variety of capacities, including serving as Stage Manager for Ercole Amante in 2001. Wesley moved to New York to be Operations Manager and Artistic Coordinator of The New York Collegium, spent seven years at Carnegie Hall in the Marketing/Creative Services and Artistic Programming departments, and served as Artistic Administrator of The Little Orchestra Society, as well managing the New York Summer Mahler Project. Wesley devotes his non-Opera Omnia time to a life as a freelance musician, conductor, teacher, editor, and consultant for projects ranging from concert production to medical imaging software.
About Opera Omnia
Opera Omnia aims to combine a deep knowledge of historical performance practice with a modern theatrical aesthetic to produce performances that are musically and dramatically satisfying to both the veteran classical concertgoer and to those new to the genre. We initially concentrate on musical-dramatic works of the early 17th century, performing them in English translation and modern staging. Our approach seeks to bring new audiences to these early opera masterworks while shedding new light on the works for those already familiar with them.
About Le Poisson Rouge
(Le) Poisson Rouge is a multimedia art cabaret founded by musicians on the site of the historic Village Gate. Dedicated to the fusion of popular and art cultures in music, film, theater, dance, and fine art, the venue’s mission is to revive the symbiotic relationship between art and revelry; to establish a creative asylum for both artists and audiences.
LPR prides itself in offering the highest quality eclectic programming, impeccable acoustics, and bold design. The state-of-the art performance space, engineered by the legendary John Storyk/WSDG, offers full flexibility in multiple configurations: seated, standing, in-the-round, and numerous alternative arrangements. The adjoining lounge is open during the day as a café, and at night as a secondary bar and event space. A work of art itself, the physical facilities are the embodiment of the experimental philosophy that drives the venue.www.lprnyc.com
Francesco Cavalli’s Giasone
Fully staged, in English (translation by Paul Echols)
September 1, 2, 3, 6, & 7 at 7:00 PM (Preview/open dress August 31)
at Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleeker St.
Avi Stein, Music Director
Crystal Manich, Stage Director
Carla Bellisio, Costume Designer
Lauren Brown, Set Designer
Evan Purcell, Lighting Designer
Wesley Chinn, Producer
Cherry Duke, Giasone
Hai-Ting Chinn, Medea
Katharine Dain, Hipsipyle
Karim Sulayman, Delfa
Isai Jess Morales, Demo
Sharin Apostolou, Alinda
Matthew Singer, Aegeus
Nathan Baer, Besso
Patrick Murray, Orestes
Mark Uhlemann, Hercules
Cecilia Gault, Apollo
Dante Vega Lamere, Cupid
Avi Stein, Harpsichord
Grant Herreid and Dan Swenberg, Archlute, Theorbo, and Baroque Guitar
Christa Patton, Baroque Harp
Motomi Igarashi, Gamba & Lirone
$225 table (seats up to 5)
$30 general admission,
Preview/Open dress on August 31, $15 cover, 2-drink minimum
For tickets, see www.operaomnia.org/tickets or call Le Poisson Rouge at 212-796-0741.