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Angels in America the Opera / FT review


janosG <[log in to unmask]>


janosG <[log in to unmask]>


Tue, 13 Jun 2017 11:50:08 -0700





text/plain (1 lines)

  Angels in America, Rose Theater, New York — timely

The cast perform heroically in Peter Eötvös’s opera based on Tony Kushner’s play


by:*Martin Bernheimer* <>

Peter Eötvös thought big when he chose to make on opera of/Angels in America/. But the celestial beings — whatever they are — seem to have smiled upon him.

The result, first seen in Paris in 2004, is a wry distillation of Tony Kushner’s play about the basic agonies and, yes, passing ecstasies of confronting Aids in the dark past. Even at two and a half hours, the opera reduces some portraiture and much political impulse. Still,/Angels/, as performed in its New York premiere by the reconstituted New York City Opera, remains sadly timely.

The production, directed by Sam Helfrich and designed by John Farrell, is a model of dramatic focus. The sets are skeletally lean, but they tell us all we need to know. They also create and change eerie moods cleverly. And the eight-person multitasking cast, led by Andrew Garland as the central sufferer and Wayne Tigges as Roy Cohn, staggers, preaches, collapses and eventually triumphs as if lives were at stake.

The only serious weakness, alas, would seem to be the score. Pacien Mazzagatti accompanies his singers sympathetically and keeps the instruments rumbling nicely. For the most part, however, the pit merely creates modest rhythmic punctuation for the crucial vocal lines. And, until the end, those vocal lines remain stubbornly conversational. Fluid/Sprechgesang/would seem to be the universal language.

This changes beautifully, however, when the sophisticated Angel finally arrives on the scene at the end of Part One. Kirsten Chambers, all in white, sings brightly, even exquisitely, with a perfect fusion of purity and passion. The whole cast — including Sarah Beckham-Turner, Sarah Castle, Aaron Blake, Mathew Reese and Michael Weyandt — displays knowing individual power amid ensemble virtue. But Chambers deals, properly and reassuringly, in radiant revelations.

Since its rather modest reincarnation, and expulsion from Lincoln Center, the City Opera has experienced its share of ups and downs, both artistically and financially. Count/Angels in America/emphatically among the ups.

/To June 16,//// <>/


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