Review Roundup: New York City Opera's STONEWALL; What Did The Critics Think?

Review Roundup: New York City Opera's STONEWALL; What Did The Critics Think?STONEWALL is now on stage at The New York City Opera starring Andrew Bidlack, Liz Bouk, Lisa Chavez, Michael Corvino, Jessica Fishenfeld, Mark Heller, Brian James Myer, and Jordan Weatherston Pitts. The opera has music by Iain Bell, libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winner Mark Campbell, and direction by Leonard Foglia. STONEWALL opened, Friday, June 21 and runs for five performances only through Friday, June 28 at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center (in the Time Warner Center at Broadway and 60th Street).

STONEWALL, which will be the first opera to feature a transgender character specially created for a transgender singer, will be conducted by Carolyn Kuan. Richard Stafford choreographs.

A moving and explosive new American opera, STONEWALL captures the rage, grit, humor and, finally, hope of the nascent LGBTQ movement. On one hot night in 1969 a cross-section of characters including Maggie (to be sung by Lisa Chavez), a proud lesbian who is harassed on the subway and mocked by the police; Carlos (Brian James Myer), a Dominican-American English teacher recently fired from a Catholic school; Renata (Jordan Weatherston Pitts), who by day is known as Maynard, an African-American city clerk; Larry (Mark Heller), an NYPD deputy inspector; and Sarah (Liz Bouk), a transgender person celebrating the first year anniversary of her transition; find themselves thrown together in a Greenwich Village dance club with explosive results that give birth to a movement.

STONEWALL continues New York City Opera's Pride Initiative of producing an LGBT-focused work each June in commemoration of Gay Pride Month.

STONEWALL is performed Friday, June 21 at 7:30pm; Saturday, June 22 at 2pm and 7:30pm; Thursday, June 27 at 7:30pm; and Friday, June 28 at 7:30pm. Tickets, priced from $25 to $300, will be available beginning Friday, February 22 online at nycopera.com and jazz.org; by calling Centercharge at 212-721-6500 (10am - 9pm daily); and at the Jazz at Lincoln Center box office at the Time Warner Center on Broadway at 60th Street (Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm; Sunday, 12pm - 6pm).

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Joshua Barone, NY Times: On that front, "Stonewall" is groundbreaking. It features what is billed as the first transgender role written for a transgender singer (Liz Bouk). And never have I seen such a diverse slate of characters as in the closing scene: a butch lesbian alongside a feminine one, alongside a drag queen, a gay Latino, a trans woman and a homeless young gay man. Inside the Stonewall Inn, white and brown bodies dance together as if in a world far removed from the bitter racial politics of the time. But how to tell all of their stories within a single opera - one with a running time of less than 90 minutes? "Stonewall" tries, by giving the many principal singers brief arias that characterize them with pointedly telling details, but it ultimately doesn't have the space to push any one role beyond mere archetype. And the baldfaced emotionality of Mr. Bell's otherwise sophisticated score often abandons a human scale for something more like hagiography.

David Wright, NY Classical Review: Campbell's libretto made clear that there were as many paths leading to the Stonewall as there were people in it. While depicting a movement without leaders, Campbell took the liberty of focusing two dramatic turning points-the initial resistance to the cops in the bar, and later rallying the crowd outside-on the fictional character of Maggie, an assertively butch lesbian who works in her dad's hardware store in Inwood, the remotest end of uptown Manhattan.

James Jorden, Observer: Heading a superb cast was Lisa Chavez as the tough Maggie, flinging out compact mezzo tone like fists. Andrew Bidlack (Andy) and Jessica Fishenfeld (as the "lipstick" lesbian Leah) triumphed with daunting leaps to difficult high notes. The casting of trans man Liz Bouk as the trans woman Sarah would be plenty interesting enough for political reasons, but his shimmering alto also provided a lovely moment of repose in an otherwise skittish opera.

Jennifer Pyron, Opera Wire: "Stonewall" transforms and inspires modern opera-goers, based on its ability to simply and beautifully communicate an honest story with relatable characters. Bell's proficient and adept connection to the human voice is apparent all throughout. He develops cinematic responses within a technicolor landscape that simultaneously entertains and informs the audience. No character goes unnoticed in his recipe geared towards crafting the perfect moments of intimate atmospheric bliss, most especially experienced in the final scene where a chorus divinely delivers the uprising's universal message of love, acceptance and hope for the future.

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