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Subject: my apologies for being late and a Shana Tova//VIVA V.E.R.D.I.:"The Promised End" opens the In Series new era of (r)Evolution!(9/8/18)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 15 Sep 2018 15:34:23 -0400
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I have taken almost a week to absorb what I experienced last Saturday night at the opening of the IN SERIES new season. It was a momentous night for many reasons, but most of all, after 35 years our Artistic Director, Carla Hubner, has retired and turned over the reins to Timothy Nelson, who comes equipped with muck knowledge, great enthusiasm and many novel and (r)Evolutionary! ideas to quote his theme for the season of (r)Evolution!

As a Board Member I had many mixed feelings about the performance and I must also admit that for the first time in her career here as the Washington Post critic, I sat next to Anne Midgette. She promised me that a long dealyed feature article on our new director would appear in the paper on September 16 (it's not in the Arts section which I received today!). Her review that appeared in this week's paper was a rarity in that it was virtually all raves and screams about the course of opera, music and theater here in DC and indeed worldwide. Timothy has indeed broken new ground and none of us ever thought a performance of the Verdi Requiem by 8 soloists and piano with one actor, could be such a smashing success.


The basic concept of this performance had director Steven Scott Mazzola presenting eight soloists (2 sopranos, 2 mezzos, 2 tenors and 2 basses) along with piano played by Music Director Paul Leavitt(in white tie and tails) in a semblance of the Requiem minus the chorus, where the actor nanna Ingvarsson arrived as Verdi on his deathbed and ultimately lapsed into the King Lear. The texts came from various sources including Shakespeare in a collage assembled by Mr. Nelson, and while they gave a effect of almost overall madness, at times they conveyed great beauty and love, especially of music and drama.  

The singers wore period(1901) costumes by Maria Bissex and the set of Jonathan Dahm Roberston  was comprised of large widths of elastic white strings that were in various locations mostly vertical around the thrust stage; it was clear they were piano strings and one grouping at the end of the grand piano even seemed to hold that huge instrument in place.

The work began with the singers offstage singing "Va pensiero" which crescendoed as they entered. Ms. Ingvarsson's Verdi introduced them as the operas and characters. Her texts were in English for the most part unfortunately just about 10 minutes into the work, were totally covered by the singers' Kyrie. Her outbursts of emotion sometimes scared me, just like the "Dies irae" is meant to do. The traditional assignments of the parts meant nothing here as we had tenors sharing the "Ingemisco" but also each person taking on parts they might not normally sing. In addition, they sat in the audience, at the piano and while not necessarily interacting with us, did become a part of us. Most of the Requeim (almost 90 minutes as it usually is) was in Latin, with some parts sung in English such as "Death with wonder" for Mors stupebit.

The singers: sopranos Natalie Conte & Teresa Ferrara, mezzos Anamer Castrello & Elizabeth Mondragon, tenors Brian Arreola and Peter Burroughs, and basses John T.K. Scherch and Bryan Jackson were amazing throughout. A number of them have been with the In Series for years, some were new to us, but all performed in a manner that just seemed to go above and beyond what they have done before. It was almost magical how the combination of voices gave rise to a quasi-ecstatic mood in the room.

I am not going to delve into the actions or staging as it is quite involved, this was not a stand and sing Requiem, but one that each character had a part in. Musically, it was beyond impressive with such moments as the two sopranos both soaring. This is not for the traditionalist, it is for the person who wishes to experience Verdi and his Requiem in a new and exciting way and also intimately as our black box is as cozy as it gets(Source Theatre in DC).

I can only say that as a Board Member and multiple decade supporter of the In Series, I am thrilled with the direction we are taking as the house was full opening night, and we can only hope for this for the rest of the run(based on the rave reviews) and the season as well. VIVA V.E.R.D.I-The Promised end still has performances today at 8pm, tomorrow at 2pm, Wednesday September 19th and Friday, Saturday & Sunday September 21-23. Catch the new IN SERIES at its best if yo can.

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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