OPERA NEWS - Viewpoint: Alternative Music
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Viewpoint: Alternative Music

By F. Paul Driscoll

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Stephanie Blythe and Brenda Rae in Blythely after Hours
© Dominic Mercier

OPERA PHILADELPHIA'S recent O18 festival featured a little bit of something for everyone: a new production of a standard-repertory piece, a world premiere, a recontextualized classic and a multi-disciplinary installation at the Barnes Collection are all reviewed beginning on page 40 of this issue. Also on offer in Philadelphia in late September was Queens of the Night, a three-evening cabaret series threaded together by the star-crossed romance between the fictional characters Blythely Orantonio—a somewhat seedy tenor superstar brought to life by mezzo Stephanie Blythe—and Martha Graham Cracker, the uninhibited drag-queen alter-ego of actor Dito van Regersburg. Each artist led the revels in a show on his or her own—good luck parsing your way out of that particular phrase—before sharing the stage as a team in Dito + Aeneas

Our review of the first show in the trio, Blythely after Hours, is online at operanews.com. I did not see that performance, which featured Blythely sharing the stage with the brilliant young American soprano Brenda Rae (in her blood-stained Lucia costume, with matching heels) and the incomparable trans-genre cabaret artist Justin Vivian Bond, but I did see the final working rehearsal of the piece. Even in a rehearsal hall, I was enchanted by the show’s mash-up of opera arias and 1980s pop songs within a snappy Dean Martin Show vibe. 

Queens of the Night was presented cabaret-style at Philadelphia’s raffish Theater of the Living Arts, demonstrating that the identity of a company is not represented by the building in which it performs but by its spirit of adventure—the ability to share music fully with an audience, whatever the venue, and to allow that audience to hear that music in a new way. When performers and presenters take the risk of doing something just a little bit crazy—whether it’s Blythely Orantonio singing Rick Springfield or Montserrat Caballé floating through a mile-long pianissimo—audiences get an in-the-moment experience to be savored, cherished and remembered. There is nothing more exhilarating. spacer 

Viewpoint Driscoll Signature 815
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The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera. 

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