NEW YORK CITY: El Gato con Botas
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In Review > North America

El Gato con Botas

Gotham Chamber Opera

El Teatro at El Museo del Barrio proved an ideal setting for Gotham Chamber Opera’s revival of El Gato con Botas, first presented by the company in 2010. The theater’s colorful murals of fairy tales, painted by Willy Pogany in the 1920s, including one of “Puss in Boots,” set the mood for the fanciful production that unfolded on stage. The classic story of the wily cat, determined to use his magical talents to succeed with his master, the miller, came to life with the wonderfully creative use of a combination of puppets and singers, enthralling the audience of all ages. 

For those who are not usually puppet fans, be assured that these creations, the work of London’s Blind Summit Theatre, are mostly life-sized, agile, and totally compelling. Moisés Kaufman’s staging brilliantly combines the talents of the puppeteers and the singers so that they blend seamlessly to tell the story. The singers, dressed in black, stand next to or behind the puppets and become a natural extension of the character’s actions and emotions. The puppeteers, headed by Stefano Brancato, manipulate an amazing repertoire of gestures from the most minute to the most extravagant, matching the design of the puppets, wonderfully humorous figures ranging from the scruffy Cat to the Humpty-Dumpty-shaped King. 

The music, composed by Xavier Montsalvatge in 1947, is melodic and witty, matching the instrumentation to the characters, and allowing for contrasting moods. The Cat’s whining and plotting are followed by a lovely waltz melody as he composes a romantic and appealing love letter, all beautifully voiced by Ginger Costa-Jackson, with her rich mezzo-soprano and excellent diction. The Ogre is introduced through a macabre dance of his body parts, eventually uniting to produce a bloated figure, boozily brought to life by bass Kevin Burdette in a standout performance. Stefanos Koroneos’ pleasing baritone suited the role of the comically ineffectual King. The only two roles given to singers without a matching puppet, the Miller and the Princess, received excellent performances by baritone Craig Verm and soprano Andrea Carroll. Neal Goren, Artistic Director of Gotham, kept all the forces well in hand, eliciting a sensitively balanced performance from the orchestra.  

Lasting just a little over one hour, this production was a treat for eyes and ears, and one can only hope that it will continue to be revived from time to time, perhaps as a seasonal treat at El Teatro. spacer 



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