19 September 2014 05:32PM
Thursday evening’s general rehearsal, before an invited audience, of Handel’s obscure masterwork “Alcina” was a notable juncture in a bold and worthy experiment. Inaugurating Whitebox Art Center’s SoundLounge series, the production, initiated and executed with consummate enthusiasm and professionalism by Hudson resident R. B. Schlather, former director at the New York City Opera, is an attempt to take opera out of the cocoon of high culture and (almost) onto the street. Whitebox Art Center’s street level gallery space at Broome and Bowery turns out to be an ideal space for such a venture, with its glass façade, high ceilings, and astonishing acoustics.
With no amplification, a polished seven-member cast of great range led by the ethereal Katharina Hagopian, and a twelve-piece orchestra anchored in harpsichord and cello, under the direction of the highly accomplished Geoffrey McDonald, Schlather’s production, though sparingly staged, never fails to capture and clarify the magical drama of Handel’s piece. Sung in the original Italian, supertitles are discreetly projected on two walls, making the complex narrative easy to follow, and while watching a Seventeenth Century opera for over two hours may sound something of a challenge to the uninitiated, in this case it isn’t at all. It’s opera like you’ve never seen before, and, in every sense—not just the master’s glorious music—totally accessible and utterly engaging.
The tide-turning event culminates in two final public performances tomorrow and Sunday at 7pm (donation suggested).
Photo by David Adam Moore