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BWW Review: Soprano Chuchman Excels in Pergolesi STABAT MATER at Lincoln Center's White Light Festival

BWW Review: Soprano Chuchman Excels in Pergolesi STABAT MATER at Lincoln Center's White Light Festival
Soprano Andriana Chuchman, in blue, with Jessica Lang
dancers Milan Misko and Kana Kimura. Photo: Kevin Yatarola

Lincoln Center's White Light Festival devoted a pair of evenings last week to a staged performance of Pergolesi's gorgeous hymn to Mary, STABAT MATER, directed by choreographer Jessica Lang (originally done several years ago at the Glimmerglass Festival in upstate NY). It featured a pair of lyric soloists, soprano Andriana Chuchman and star countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, with the Orchestra of St Luke's under Speranza Scappucci's thoughtful baton, at the Rose Theatre of Jazz from Lincoln Center.

The program started off with a spirited account by the ensemble of Mozart's "Divertimento in F major, K. 138," that made me think of George Balanchine's "Mozart Divertimento" (same composer, different music). I wondered why Lang hadn't added a choreographed version of the music to the evening, which would have made its inclusion on the program more logical, welcome as the orchestral performance was.

I was only there to review the music end of the proceedings, the Pergolesi in particular, so all I'll say about the dance was that I thought it didn't always seem to serve the music very well, except where the singers interacted with the dancers of the director's own "Jessica Lang Dance."

BWW Review: Soprano Chuchman Excels in Pergolesi STABAT MATER at Lincoln Center's White Light Festival
Adriana Chuchman and Anthony Roth
Costanzo with dancers. Photo: Kevin Yatarola

STABAT MATER was written at the end of the composer's short life--he died at 26--and slays me every time I hear it, particularly the entry of the countertenor (sometimes alto) in the first section of 12, the "Stabat mater dolorosa."

For me, the standout of the evening was soprano Chuchman who gave an absolutely riveting performance in the music, which describes the tribulations of the Virgin Mary after the death of Christ. The program noted that the libretto could also be taken in a more general sense, about a parent's loss of a child and I (mostly) agree, though it's hard not to read the original intention in a staged production.

But no matter how one took it, the singer showed great beauty, purity of tone and line, and moved gracefully among the dancers. Costanzo appeared to be having an off night-perhaps unfamiliar with the Rose's acoustical demands--and seemed somewhat underpowered except when he was singing in duet with Chuchman.

The simple yet dramatic stage set by Marjorie Bradley Kellogg--with a pair of huge gnarled tree trunks shifting into various configurations--including, of course, the cross and was a staggering prop. Lighting by Mark McCullough fit perfectly, but I assume the rather drab costumes by Bradon McDonald went with Lang's concept for the piece.

For me, at least, it was Chuchman who gave it a true sense of agony mixed with calm.

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From This Author Richard Sasanow