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In Review > North America

Slow Dusk & Markheim 

NEW YORK CITY
The Little Opera Theatre of New York
12/11/14

Since the earliest stages of his career, Carlisle Floyd’s primary focus has been on the composition of opera. He has created eleven operas, most famously his Susannah. Listeners recently had the welcome chance to hear two of Floyd’s one-act operas, courtesy of The Little Opera Theatre of New York in a ten-performance run. The production, featuring newly created reduced orchestrations, ran in Manhattan’s 59E59 Theatre from December 5 through 14 (seen Dec. 11).

Dating from 1949, Slow Dusk is Carlisle Floyd’s first opera. The composer used his own short story, A Lengthening Shadow, as the basis of his libretto. As a work, Slow Dusk feels truncated, more like the first act to a larger opera than a complete drama. That said, it has very strong moments. Particular praise was merited by the love scene of Sadie and Micah, here beautifully rendered by soprano Caroline Castells and tenor John Kaneklides, and by Sadie’s scene of mourning following Micah’s death. Castells showed great versatility in her transition from the sweet innocence of young love through the depths of grief, loss and all-too-early maturity. Kaneklides was the very picture of youthful optimism and potential. Janice Meyerson and Robert Balonek offered solid performances in the supporting roles of Aunt Sue and Jess.

Markheim, dating from 1966, is much more satisfying as a complete dramatic entity. Floyd based this work on the Robert Louis Stevenson short story of the same name, taking some understandable liberties with details of its initial premises. It is a dark Victorian tale of murder and the supernatural. Baritone Tyler Putnam gave a superb performance in the title role, alternately self-serving, malevolent and tragic. Markheim is something of a tour de force for baritone, and Putnam proved more than up to the task. He was strongly assisted by tenor Brent Reilly Turner as the nasty, misanthropic shopkeeper, Josiah Creach, and by tenor Matthew Tuell as the mysterious, sinister Stranger who offers Markheim the means of escaping capture for committing murder. Soprano Angelina Mannino was convincing in the minor role of Tess, Creach’s housekeeper.

Philip Shneidman’s direction was simple but elegant in both works. Richard Cordova maintained excellent balance between the orchestra and singers, and led the music with eloquence, despite some horrendous intonation problems in the orchestra, which here was separated onto either side of the stage. 

This was a lovely evening of American opera and a celebration of Carlisle Floyd’s music — a rewarding and ambitious offering from The Little Opera Theatre of New York. spacer 

ARLO McKINNON

 

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