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Review: New Camerata Opera Has 'Something Familiar, Something Peculiar…' in Its Boulanger-Ravel Double Bill at the Irondale Center

Company's Season Opener in Brooklyn Brings Audiences A Minor But Altogether Enjoyable Evening

Review: New Camerata Opera Has 'Something Familiar, Something Peculiar…' in Its Boulanger-Ravel Double Bill at the Irondale Center
Chris Carr, Eva Parr in FAUST. Photo: James Elliott

The new opera season started out for me far from Lincoln Center's madding crowds, in Brooklyn's Irondale Center, near BAM, with a pair of short pieces by French composers that definitely had their charms.

While Maurice Ravel, composer of the evening's L'HEURE ESPAGNOLE, is the better known, for his many works for piano, the short opera L'ENFANT ET LES SORTILEGES, and most famously/notoriously "Bolero", perhaps the more interesting part of the evening was the curtain-raiser, FAUST ET HELENE, by Lili Boulanger, as arranged by Thomas Juneau and Hilary Baboukis. Together they made a slight but fascinating program, which was performed lovingly by the New Camerata Opera, under music director Kamal Khan and director John de los Santos, with lively sets and projections by Atom Moore, lighting by Joshua Rose and costumes by Ashley Soliman.

Boulanger was the younger sister of Nadia Boulanger, who taught many of the leading composers of the 20th century (though she thought she had no composing talent of her own). Her life was cut short by illness (1893-1918) but the composer's few pieces nonetheless have left musicians wondering where she might have gone had her life continued.

Review: New Camerata Opera Has 'Something Familiar, Something Peculiar…' in Its Boulanger-Ravel Double Bill at the Irondale Center
Chris Carr, Markel Reed in FAUST. Photo: James Elliott

The cantata began with echoes of Richard Wagner before taking a totally different route--rich and French, showing off her skills using just a few voices and a chamber orchestra. The music swept the audience away with her tale (libretto by Eugene Adenis) of another aspect of the life of Goethe's "Faust." Bringing Helen of Troy into the story, it is a far cry from Gounod's journey with Faust and Mephistopheles, though neither she nor Gounod's Marguerite end well, and Faust can't get away from the black arts and evil deeds of the devil.

Still, Boulanger dazzles with her musical story-telling skills in the cantata, under Khan's baton, and the rich voices (in the Saturday September 17 performance) of mezzo Eva Parr as Helene, baritone Chris Carr as Faust and baritone Markel Reed as Mephistopheles. (Faust's troubled sleep is overseen by a pair of spirits.) Mezzo Parr (also a cofounder of the company) was particularly enchanting, as she proved a second time, as the sex-starved Concepcion in the Ravel.

Review: New Camerata Opera Has 'Something Familiar, Something Peculiar…' in Its Boulanger-Ravel Double Bill at the Irondale Center
Eva Parr, Chris Carr in L'HEURE.
Photo: James Elliott

The opera buffa L'HEURE ESPAGNOLE was first performed in Paris in 1911, set in a clock shop in central Spain. The libretto by Franc-Nohan (arranged here by Klaus Simon) follows the fortunes of Torquemada, a hardworking clockmaker, whose young wife takes advantage of his absences--he's in charge of keeping the town's timepieces working properly--to have her way with a collection of laughable lovers. It bears a closer resemblance to musical comedy than the typical opera (even buffa-style) and has a host of charming melodies, lively dances and elements of folk songs, that combine elements of the French and Spanish song in an orgiastic, slapstick farce.

Review: New Camerata Opera Has 'Something Familiar, Something Peculiar…' in Its Boulanger-Ravel Double Bill at the Irondale Center
Eva Parr, Andy Dwan in L'HEURE.
Photo: James Elliott

The cast brings out the comic elements with aplomb--even baritone Reed (who was the first half's devil) as the muleteer, manages to keep a straight-but-delighted face through most of his funny role, along with baritone Carr as Gonsalve, tenor Gabriel Hernandez as the clockmaker and the handy bass-baritone Andy Dwan as Don Inigo Gomez.

It was a minor but altogether enjoyable evening that gave us hope for more substantial things to come in the 2022-23 season.

Further performances of the double-bill will take place through September 24. See the New Camerata Opera website for further information.



Review: THE HOURS Goes by in Minutes as Met Gives Birth to Fascinating Opera by Puts and P Photo
The Met gave birth to a fascinating new opera on Tuesday and it wasn’t a moment too soon to unleash composer Kevin Puts’s THE HOURS on an audience that sometimes seems doomed to die inundated by too many AIDAs, BOHEMEs and CARMENs. The world premiere production of THE HOURS by Puts and Greg Pierce was directed by Phelim McDermott. The cast was a starry one, led by soprano Renee Fleming, soprano Kelli O’Hara and mezzo Joyce DiDonato.

Dayton Performing Arts Alliance SuperPops Series Continues With Hometown Holiday, AMAHL AN Photo
Dayton Performing Arts Alliance presents Hometown Holiday, featuring the one-act opera Amahl and the Night Visitors as part of the SuperPops Series, Friday, Dec. 2, and Dec. 3, at 7:30 pm in the Mead Theater of the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center.

Review: LA RONDINE at Winter Opera Photo
Winter Opera has presented a truly gorgeous production of Puccini's La Rondine (The Swallow). Puccini is the supreme master of romantic melody, and in Rondine he outdoes himself. I love this opera, my heart having been beguiled early by one lilting, gently syncopated romantic waltz refrain that recurs again and again like the memory of a distant sweet infatuation.

After More Than 240 Performances, Sonja Frisells Staging Of Verdis AIDA Has Its Final Met  Photo
Verdi's epic opera Aida returns to the Metropolitan Opera stage for fifteen performances, from December 2, 2022, to April 27, 2023. The monumental production by Sonja Frisell makes its last appearance since premiering in 1988 at the Met, where it has played 240 times.


From This Author - Richard Sasanow

Richard Sasanow has been BroadwayWorld.com's Opera Editor for many years, with interests covering contemporary works, standard repertoire and true rarities from every era. He is an intervi... (read more about this author)


Review: THE HOURS Goes by in Minutes as Met Gives Birth to Fascinating Opera by Puts and PierceReview: THE HOURS Goes by in Minutes as Met Gives Birth to Fascinating Opera by Puts and Pierce
November 25, 2022

The Met gave birth to a fascinating new opera on Tuesday and it wasn’t a moment too soon to unleash composer Kevin Puts’s THE HOURS on an audience that sometimes seems doomed to die inundated by too many AIDAs, BOHEMEs and CARMENs. The world premiere production of THE HOURS by Puts and Greg Pierce was directed by Phelim McDermott. The cast was a starry one, led by soprano Renee Fleming, soprano Kelli O’Hara and mezzo Joyce DiDonato.

Review: Oratorio Society Debuts Stunning NATION OF OTHERS by Moravec and Campbell at Carnegie HallReview: Oratorio Society Debuts Stunning NATION OF OTHERS by Moravec and Campbell at Carnegie Hall
November 18, 2022

The Oratorio Society of New York (OSNY), under Kent Tritle, gave its second stirring world premiere by Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell with Tuesday’s outstanding performance of A NATION OF OTHERS.

Review: An Old-Fashioned Sing-Off Celebrates ANGEL BLUE at Geffen Hall's 2022 Richard Tucker GalaReview: An Old-Fashioned Sing-Off Celebrates ANGEL BLUE at Geffen Hall's 2022 Richard Tucker Gala
November 15, 2022

Award-winner Angel Blue started off the proceedings at the Richard Tucker Gala (after Barry Tucker’s usual introduction/ode to his father, the great tenor) with a bang: Puccini’s justly famous aria “Vissi d’arte” from TOSCA. For those of us who’ve only heard her as Bess in Gershwin’s PORGY & BESS at the Met, it was a revelation to hear her lush, velvety voice raise the rafters on the hall, with no warm up.

Review: DON CARLO Returns to the Met, This Time in ItalianReview: DON CARLO Returns to the Met, This Time in Italian
November 13, 2022

Last season, the company gave its first presentation of the French version (that’s the one called DON CARLOS, with a final S to his first name), in the five-act version that lasted almost 5 hours. This year, we’re back to Italian, under Carlo Rizzi’s firm baton, in one of a number of versions (this one running about 4 hours) of DON CARLO, which uses shortcuts to tell the story elements deleted with the excision of the first act (usually referred to as “the Fontainebleau scene”).

Review: New York Becomes HOMETOWN to Kaminsky-Reed Opera About ICE Raid on Slaughterhouse in IowaReview: New York Becomes HOMETOWN to Kaminsky-Reed Opera About ICE Raid on Slaughterhouse in Iowa
November 10, 2022

HOMETOWN TO THE WORLD--the 70-minute contemporary chamber opera by Laura Kaminsky and Kimberly Reed about the aftermath of a 2008 raid by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on a slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa--is about as far from the Midwest of Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN imaginable.