A Week in the (Cultural) Life – Part One

Greetings and Salutations! Yes, we’ve been away for a few weeks, but now we come roaring back. I hope everyone made it through the winter and is enjoying some milder weather and the expectation of warmer things to come.

We’ve been very busy ourselves, although we haven’t been out of the city since our return from Antarctica and Buenos Aires. The cultural scene has been extremely busy and will continue for the next month or so.

I thought you might be interested to know what we’ve been up to over the past week. It’s been all culture and eclectic culture at that. The accent has been mostly on opera. However, it hasn’t been your mom and pop’s opera, as you will soon see.

Last Saturday night, we returned to Brooklyn to attend LoftOpera’s first production of the year, Puccini’s Tosca. You may recall that, this past December, we visited LoftOpera for the 1st time to see their production of The Rape of Lucretia and were pretty much blown away by the audacity of the experience.

In the first place, LoftOpera has made a commitment to take the “elite” out of opera, without sacrificing what’s important: great works being performed by talented up and coming singers in unusual surroundings at affordable prices and with a real party vibe.

Tosca - AAC
AAC CPA arrives with the ArcAngel Michael over his shoulder

Did I mention that the audience is mostly comprised of youngsters (i.e., the under 30-crowd) looking for a great night on the town?

Or that, one of LoftOpera’s sponsors is the Brooklyn Brewery, so that beer is available throughout the performance? (One of the more piquant enjoyments of this Tosca performance was to hear the tinkling of beer bottles tipping over now and then and yet again.)

Oh, and did I mention that Tosca was presented in an old bus depot in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn in so isolated a part of town that even Uber had a hard time finding the place?

Tosca - Opera Sign
How we found the bus depot – this sign in the darkness

Or that, during intermission, the beer continues to flow freely while house music blasts over the speakers?

Tosca - Audience
The cool and young audience enjoying culture and the party atmosphere

Or that, most importantly, this Tosca was the best production of Puccini’s “shabby little shocker” on the opera scene in New York (and I include a certain production of the work in the repertoire of a certain opera company located at Lincoln Center).

Oh yeah, and tickets are $30. Yes, you read that right: $30 will get you an opera.

Backed by a 32-piece orchestra and energetically conducted by Dean Buck, this Tosca took flight. The cast, headed by Eleni Calenos in the title role (diminutive in appearance, but packing a huge soprano voice well versed in the verismo style), James Chamberlain (our Cavaradossi with his beautiful upper register and thrilling high notes) and Kevin Wetzel (the perverse – and I mean that in a good way – Baron Scarpia) put it all out there at what was the closing performance of the run.

Tosca - 01
Cavaradossi and Tosca, Act I

Tosca - 01a
Baron Scarpia – Act I (Te Deum)

Tosca - 02
Tosca takes matters into her own (bloody) hands

Tosca - 03
Tosca and Cavaradossi – Act III

Tosca - 04
Spoiler Alert: It ends badly for everyone

And I have to give a shout-out to Jordan Pitts as Scarpia’s head henchman, Spoletta (and one of the creepiest and most threatening Spolettas I’ve ever witnessed – you wouldn’t want to run into this guy late at night in Bushwick!). Normally a comprimario role that disappears into the scenery, this Spoletta was a junior Scarpia in training.

Although the performance was sold out with over 500 people attending, the performance space allowed for an intimacy between the characters and the audience that would be impossible at almost any other venue. I’m not kidding when I tell you that there were times that the singers were literally within 2 feet of where we were sitting. And, in fact, the performance was SO sold out that there were about a dozen people sitting on the floor in front of what would be the first row.

(In fact, the company’s executive producer (and set designer for this performance), Daniel Ellis-Ferris, was sitting directly in front of us (on the floor) as he synchronized the projected titles onto a screen over the set.)

Tosca - Titles
How the titles work (Thanks, Dan!)

The production was imaginatively staged and authentic to the creators’ opus, notwithstanding a number of anachronisms that were both witty and yet, somehow, appropriate (although I doubt that Spoletta would have received the news of Napoleon’s victory at Marengo via his cellphone).

Bottom line: kudos to Dan and Brianna (LoftOpera’s general manager), the cast and all involved with this very successful production of Tosca.

NY Times on LoftOpera’s Tosca

Next up for LoftOpera: Rossini’s Le Comte Ory in June. Stay tuned or, better yet, order your tickets as soon as they go on sale!

CULTURE TIP: LoftOpera

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2 thoughts on “A Week in the (Cultural) Life – Part One

  1. A great write up for LoftOpera. We too have been enjoying some lovely opera on board Silver Wind with an exceptional soprano and an equally talented tenor. At sea today and raising a glass to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

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