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Review: ROOST performed by Urban Arias as part of the Decameron Opera Coalition

A short opera about an expectant couple (for the first time) in lockdown.

Review: ROOST performed by Urban Arias as part of the Decameron Opera Coalition
L-R Ryan MacPherson and Sharin Apostolou in Urban Arias' Roost.
Photo courtesy of Urban Arias.

Roost. It's a short opera about an expectant couple (for the first time) in lockdown who would be happy, and sexually active, if not for the fact that the air conditioning isn't working and it's a long, hot summer. Also hovering via FaceTime is Kat's overbearing mother.

Somehow, they find a way, and this all takes place in about 15 minutes.

For those who gripe about traditional opera being too lengthy, happening in the sometimes-distant past, and of course being in a foreign language, Decameron Opera Coalition may be the answer. Especially at a time when some large opera companies are closed because of the pandemic.

A consortium of nine independent opera companies from across the country, Decameron aims to keep opera alive and new work blossoming in spite of it. This month it launched a maiden project - nine World Premiere one-act operas, and a tenth wrap-around story starring bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni.

The operas are presented online and streamed, with a clarity and a three-dimensional quality Zoom can generally not provide.

Roost was created by director/lyricist John de los Santos and composer Marc Migo for UrbanArias, which debuted at the Kennedy Center in 2010 and is the only company in Decameron to be located in the DC area. The company's founder and artistic director, Robert Wood, conducted the music.

One of the neat things about Roost is that Sharin Apostolou (soprano) and tenor Ryan MacPherson are not entirely acting. They are a married couple who are expecting their first child and can well understand the emotions of the characters they play. That gives a realism to Roost.

Mezzo-soprano Emily Pulley is pushy - pretending that her daughter's request to wear a mask if she visits is a reflection on her middle-aged looks -but gets the last laugh.

The three singers, who have plenty of experience in conventional operas and classic musicals, are fine. I kept asking myself, though, whether I would have preferred the opera to be a straight play. (That probably comes from a lover of conventional opera, but of course, an art form has to grow.)

The title of the opera coalition and the concept s maiden project derive from a classic of Italian literature - Decameron, by Giovanni Boccacci. It focuses on a plague and on 10 characters who are quarantined because of the Black Plague in the 14th Century. They survive by telling stories, some 100 in all, with discussions of human vices, love, bawdiness, hope, and many other subjects.

This is certainly a clever concept at this time.

Sharing the program with Roost is another episode entitled Prompted by Appetite. Both launched on October 16. The next episode, containing three operas, will be shown starting October 23.

Running Time for Roost: Fifteen minutes

For more information and to purchase tickets to Roost, click here. You can view this and the other eight operas in The Decameron through December 31. For overall information about the coalition, click here.

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