Alice in New York

It's clear from my entries on this blog over the past year, and it's a belief I share with the cynical other half of Opera Cabal, that most opera being produced on American stages today is uninspired at best. It's also the reason I find opera so exciting to produce. Imagine being a cook in a world where no one has discovered salt. And then one day, you happen upon a strange rock ...

Battling the ebb tide of idiotic contemporary opera, Peter Westergaard's Alice in Wonderland premiered last Tuesday at New York's Symphony Space. If you are an opera and you're struggling with whether you're worth sitting through, lemme give you a tip. Consider incorporating a British starling bird call into your score:

Apart from this fabulous thing, and a variety of pitch pipes and hand chimes, the best part about this opera is that, in a stroke of genius, Westergaard's orchestra IS the a capella ensemble of singers that make up its cast. So in one of my favorite moments, after a scene as the (drag) Queen of Hearts, Westergaard's bass, Eric Jordan, quickly rushed back to stage left along with the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and the Doormouse to become the sounds of the caterpillar's hookah with pitched gurgles, ribbits, and blips.

As Anthony Tommasini points out, the opera is a work in progress, but its opera-in-a-trunk quality (in the attempt to make scenes flow seamlessly, a lot of lines are shouted from off-stage and costume changes happen in full view of the audience) I found it pleasantly relaxed.

Speaking of birds, is anyone interested in verifying that this is in fact the strangest website ever created?

And speaking of Nick, since he's apparently too humble to broadcast this himself (or did you just stop reading our blog, Nick?), Nick is going to DARMSTADT this summer on a full conducting scholarship. No small thing.


JennieJ said...

Hey! Thanks for the mention. Alice was quite possibly the most difficult score I've ever encountered. I am still extremely grateful to have dodged the bullet of birdcall and handbell playing for this one, lol! Oh.. and thanks for posting the picture too :)
Very truly,
Jennifer Winn (aka Alice)

Nick &/or Majel said...

Hey, Alice, a.k.a. Jennifer! Did I mention you did an unbelievable job with the hardest score I've ever listened to? Peter W. confessed to me he'd taken maybe just a tad too long getting the scores to his singers, so I appreciated your work all the more ;)