OPERA NEWS - Queen of the Night
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In Review > North America

Queen of the Night

Diamond Horseshoe at the Paramount Hotel

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Katherine Crockett in Queen of the Night at the Diamond Horseshoe at the Paramount Hotel
© Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com
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Katherine Crockett
© Joan Marcus
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Mason Ames and Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau (Tamino and Pamina)
© Joan Marcus

Queen of the Night opened on New Year's Eve 2013 at the Diamond Horseshoe, a cabaret club at Manhattan's Paramount Hotel that had been closed since 1951, and basically blew the shuttered doors off their hinges. An adaptation of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, this beguiling, immersive entertainment experience contains only a snippet of the composer's music (an electronic dance remix of "Der Hölle Rache"), but with music, dancers, jugglers, acrobats, cocktails and couture, all packed into an elaborately designed space, the work's scope and ambition are undeniably operatic. Call it a circus opera — with full dinner service. Initially scheduled for a six-week run, the interactive, Cirque du Soleil-esque show has been extended twice (until Aug. 31) and become quite the hot ticket, with celebrities such as Edward Norton and restaurateur Rick Bayless showing up for the party.

Energetically directed by Christine Jones (who designed the sets for the Metropolitan Opera's Rigoletto), the show's premise is that the Marchesa/Queen of the Night is throwing a dark, decadent debutante ball for her daughter, Pamina, at the moment when "the flower of her youth [is] blossoming into womanhood." As in the Mozart, Tamino undergoes trials to win Pamina, and Papageno has a hilarious suicide scene. But Queen is most intriguing in its deviations from the master: Monostatos, no longer a bulbous monster who attempts to ravage Pamina, is here a charismatic, dominant, devilishly handsome teacher who must "use patience and passion to awaken" her. He is pure sexual drive, an idea perfectly embodied in the constant motion of Julien Silliau's spellbinding German wheel routine. The show's narrative language is physical virtuosity, as opposed to singing or acting, and the immediacy of the spectacle is enhanced by Thom Browne's eye-filling costumes, which offer an exuberant play on formalwear.

Thrashing rock, techno or trip-hop fills the space as acrobats dazzle the crowd and tell the story, but most people are too swept up in the show's interactivity to catch the particulars of the plot. The ball's guests (i.e., the audience) are encouraged to dress to please the queen, and upon arrival, they descend a winding staircase, decorated with antiqued piles of champagne flutes, as butlers serve trays of drinks. Dinner includes lobster and roast suckling pig on a spit. The nights I attended, I was blindfolded, escorted to a service elevator bay for foie gras and champagne and given a private performance of a pas des deux. 

The evening's wild, full-moon debauchery allows Pamina to binge on sensual adventure with the ultimate goal that she transcend it and achieve the icy magnificence of the Marchesa herself. But Pamina rejects her birthright out of love for Tamino. Katherine Crockett, a principal dancer with Martha Graham Dance Company, delivers the Marchesa's devastated reaction as an elegant, mesmerizing contemporary-dance solo. The musical selection, Ólafur Arnalds's "Everything Must Change," aches for the mother who thought she was hosting a party for her daughter only to find herself, in her loss and heartbreak, the evening's star. As confetti wistfully fills the air, juggler Kyle Driggs comes onstage to offer the Marchesa his umbrella, and his routine, delivered with breathtaking poise, becomes a moving act of kindness toward her. For the Queen of the Night, who gets two of the most dazzling moments in Mozart's opera, only to be dismissed at its end, it is a worthier finale. spacer



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