Posted in Music

Opera in the Age of #45

This post is inspired by a series cooked up by my boyfriend…with a Puccini’s Chronicles twist. Thanks, honey!

It goes without saying that the current U.S. Presidential administration has sparked a revolution in more ways than one.  It seems that, now more than ever, people are getting in touch with the neo-women’s rights movement. And judging by the #MeToo overtones of last night’s Golden Globes ceremony…it’s clear that the entertainment industry is right in the thick of it.

The opera community is no exception. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

In a world where sopranos die for their men and mezzos often play male roles…classic operatic works are being looked at through a new lens. Decades ago, Cio-Cio San (the protagonist of Madama Butterfly) might have been seen as a victim, committing suicide in the wake of her lover’s abandonment. However, closer analysis of the libretto reveals that Cio-Cio had the most power of all. Her death was the only act that could ensure her son would live a better life than she could provide.

Another case study: the Metropolitan Opera is putting up a brand new production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte this year, starring Broadway favorite Kelli O’Hara as Despina. Described as a “comedy of the sexes,” this presentation of the piece has been reset to Coney Island in the 1950s. The very title is translated as “Women are like that.” Despite Cosi fan tutte being written over 200 years ago, its themes of female human nature and gender dynamics are as relevant as ever.

But perhaps the most explicit example of opera’s “sign o’ the times” can be found at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale in Italy. Their new presentation of Bizet’s Carmen actually changes the ending; in the original libretto, Carmen declares that she is a free woman before being murdered by the jealous, jilted Don Jose. The director at Teatro, Leo Muscato- seeking to make a statement about violence against women- is having his Carmen find a pistol with which she saves herself from Don Jose.

In conclusion: Even if the plot of a classic opera isn’t changed, the way a modern audience interprets it certainly will. So long as social problems pervade, they will continue to affect the eye with which people view their favorite art forms.

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Posted in Theatre

And the Band plays on

I had lots of adventures this week. Between that viewing of The Star and a job interview and touring the National Arts Club, I was a busy bee. But perhaps the most exciting thing I did was attending the 1st preview of a Broadway show…a little Atlantic Theater transfer known as The Band’s Visit.

There are very few musicals like The Band’s Visit out there today. Ones that don’t project, don’t spiral, don’t flash…but just ARE.

The show doesn’t even follow a consistent plot arc, really. Each character’s thread- from musical conductor Tewfiq (Tony Shalhoub) to the wistful Telephone Guy (Adam Kantor)- is like a vignette comprising the whole. As the opening lines remind us, the events of the story “aren’t very important.” At least, maybe not in the grand scheme of things…but to these characters, they mean the WORLD.

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It might sound like I’m getting philosophical, but you can’t not think about the meaning of The Band’s Visit. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be: simple. Beautifully simple. It cuts through much of the modern musical theatre BS and unearths our shared humanity as only this medium can.

Perhaps that sentiment is best expressed in one of the show’s best numbers, “Omar Sharif,” a haunting solo for Katrina Lenk’s character, Dina. This song is a memory of Dina’s childhood and how music continues to play an important role in her spiritual health. She recaptures that wonderful feeling through her relationship with Tewfiq. Meanwhile, in one of the story’s more comical moments, a charismatic member of the orchestra coaches a young man in the art of talking to girls.

Again- it is all very simple, and yet very real. It reminds me of how an old teacher once described Thornton Wilder’s Our Town: “a celebration of the mundane.” But it is there that we often find the interactions that matter most.

Just by nature of its uniqueness, I hope The Band’s Visit is able to find as much success on Broadway as it did during its run in Chelsea. True, its quietness might not be for every theatergoer…but, in my humble opinion, it is still an important piece of the tapestry called the modern American musical.

Posted in Theatre

Best Not-So-Secrets of the Theater District

Everyone loves those tours that offer glimpses into NYC’s “hidden” side, the stuff that tourists can’t tell you about. These are often called local secrets…even though, thanks to social media and the like, many of them are badly-kept. This week, I thought it would be fun (for both my readers and me!) to put together my own list of hidden gems.

In keeping with the code of honor for Puccini’s Chronicles, all secrets will center on the performing arts (of course). I apologize in advance if you already know some of these, but I’ve never claimed to be an exclusive source. Either way- here we go!

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The Hidden Mermaid: Disney’s The Little Mermaid may have closed on Broadway quite some time ago, but Ariel seems to be sticking around! If you sneak toward the other side of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (where the show played) near 46th Street, you can see its one marquee that was never taken down. A timeless reminder of how sometimes a “sure thing” on Broadway, doesn’t turn out to be!

One Singular Sensation: Seeing Hello Dolly at the Shubert Theatre? Lucky you! But while you’re there, you shouldn’t forget to check out the bronze plaque in the lobby. What plaque, you ask? The one dedicated to A Chorus Line, honoring its status as one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. Caught up in the excitement of Bette Midler fans, this can be easy to miss!

Imperially Miserable: While we’re talking about bronze plaques, there’s another one embedded in the pavement in front of the Imperial Theatre. This circular emblem pays homage to the legendary Les Miserables, which played the majority of its astounding Broadway run at this venue.

Poster Pandemonium: Are you missing your favorite show’s window-card from your merch haul? Consider stopping by Triton Gallery, inconspicuously located in a building on 8th Ave between 43rd and 44th Streets. Nick, the owner, is always happy to help you find the poster of your dreams in his inventory. Prices vary.

Theatre Hall of Fame: This place is easier-to-find than the others on my list, but there’s a catch. You must be seeing the Gershwin Theatre’s current production (Wicked) to access it! That’s right- the Theatre Hall of Fame is housed within the walls of the largest house on Broadway, and they won’t let you in unless you’ve got show tickets. I was only 13 when I saw Wicked, so unfortunately, I only have a faint memory of the performing legends who are immortalized on the walls.

Posted in Theatre

Little Theatres in the Big Village

Have you ever been hanging out on Wall Street and thought, “Damn…why is Times Square so far away? I want to catch some quality theatre!” No? Well, too bad. As the “pink elephant phenomenon” teaches us, you’re thinking it now.

Never fear, because I’ve got a secret to share. There are a host of wonderful theatrical venues nestled in the fabulous Village of New York City! They’re not terribly massive, but sometimes a close-knit experience is what you want. As a bonus, many excellent new productions and classic revivals will find a home in these theatres.

The three houses I’m spotlighting were so chosen because they do not belong to a theatre company. Off-Broadway, for example, venues like the Laura Pels (Roundabout), Lucille Lortel (MCC), or Mitzi Newhouse (Lincoln Center) are often owned by bigwig arts institutions. But the three below are typically rented out for independent productions. And sometimes, you’ll get to see a big-name star in their show, up close!

Let’s get to it!

Minetta Lane Theatre. 18 Minetta Lane. Pictured show: Himself and Nora

09himself-master768 The Minetta Lane Theatre opened in the East Village in 1984. It is noteworthy for having two seating levels (orchestra and balcony) that can accommodate 391 total patrons. Fun fact: Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years (which has become a cult classic) first premiered at this house!

Cherry Lane Theatre. 38 Commerce Street. Pictured show: Out of the Mouths of Babes

mouth-of-babes-450x300__main The Cherry Lane Theatre opened in the West Village in 1924, making it the oldest operating theatre off-Broadway. It was converted from a warehouse by the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Today, it seats 179 people and is mostly known for hosting new and unconventional works.

Barrow Street Theatre. 27 Barrow Street. Pictured show: Sweeney Todd

02sweeneyjp-superjumbo The Barrow Street Theatre opened in the 1990s, but its location (within Greenwich House) has been around since 1902. The venue has a 200-seat capacity. Nowadays, it is getting a great deal of buzz for hosting the lauded immersive production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd!

What is the best production you have seen at one of these little Village theatres?

Posted in Theatre

Get You a Man Who Does It All

If you don’t know who this fellow is, you’re probably at the wrong blog. (Just kidding…I welcome all readers who wanna talk about the arts.)

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But seriously- I attended a preview performance of Manhattan Theatre Club’s Prince of Broadway on Friday, and I walked away from it astonished. Astonished that one man could helm so many productions that make for theatrical lore. As the show notes, it takes luck, guts, and hard work. Harold Prince socked away all of these.

Perhaps even better than the crash course in Prince’s career was getting to see the production’s superb cast bring it to life. For me, Tony Yazbeck was the standout. This easy-on-the-eyes triple threat blew the roof off the Friedman Theatre with “The Right Girl” during the Follies segment. Let me tell you something about that song. When I saw Follies on Broadway, I remember feeling that “The Right Girl” was the weakest song in the score. Yazbeck’s rendition of the number changed that. To say he danced the hell out of this song would be the understatement of the year. He also seemed to get the most applause at curtain call.

Chuck Cooper’s Tevye (from Fiddler on the Roof) and Emily Skinner’s Desiree (from A Little Night Music) were also major crowd-pleasers.

Another memorable moment was Janet Dacal’s “You’ve Got Possibilities” from It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman. Yes, there was a superhero musical before Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. And it also did not fare too swiftly. However, I think “You’ve Got Possibilities” is one of the greatest ditties ever written for musical theatre. It’s snappy, it’s funny, and the lyrics are wonderfully written.

Bryonha Marie Parham was particularly impressive, too, because she probably showed the most versatility in the characters she portrayed. After delivering a glorious “Will He Like Me?” from She Loves Me, she proceeded to belt her way through the title song of Cabaret. This lady’s vocal range must be nuts.

This show reassured me that anything is possible if you’ve got a great support system and are willing to take risks. All in all, I walked away from Prince of Broadway in a very inspired frame of mind. And isn’t that what going to the theatre is all about?

Posted in Personals

Shine…Again?

Thank you to everyone who took an interest in my NYC cabaret debut!

I’m pleased to announce that thanks to this show, I have booked another gig- this time at Don’t Tell Mama. I’ll be singing in the April 4th edition of Seth’s Showcase, emceed by Seth Bisen-Hersh, alongside 5 other performers. We’ll each be doing a set of two songs, and all of the sets will either share a theme or tell a story of our choosing.

I don’t want to give too much away, but here are some clues as to my rep for this show:

  1. Both songs will surround a theme.
  2. Both songs are from modern musicals.
  3. One song is an uptempo and the other is a ballad.

My kingdom for a Tony Award…

Get tickets!

Posted in Theatre

Videos to Get You Pumped for NEW WORKS on Broadway This Spring

Okay, okay guys, calm down.

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Yes, I know the news came out today that Sara Bareilles will be succeeding Jessie Mueller as Jenna in the former’s own musical, Waitress. From what I’m seeing, half of the world is super excited and the other half is concerned. With some overlap between the two. The concerned side feels as such because they worry how this show’s almost-certain reappearance on public radar could affect the multitude of brand new musicals that will already be struggling to secure an audience just before Tony Awards time.

Well to these friends I say, “Never fear!” Puccini’s Chronicles is here to help. Today I’m going to share some awesome previews that are sure to entice folks into taking a chance on a new show. You know, along with their already-purchased revival tickets or 900th attempt at the Hamilton lottery. (Click on the name of the musical to watch the video!)

AMELIEWhat you’re seeing: A well-arranged selection of visual highlights from the piece’s pre-Broadway run in Los Angeles, set to a lovely duet from its stars, Philippa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat.

ANASTASIAWhat you’re seeing: Christy Altomare, as Anya, singing the beloved Oscar-nominated song “Journey to the Past” in Columbus Circle.

BANDSTANDWhat you’re seeing: A very cinematic trailer, complete with a bass-baritone narrator and appearances from the original Papermill Playhouse stars, Laura Osnes and Corey Cott. Also, keep an ear open for a Hamilton name-drop.

WAR PAINTWhat you’re seeing: The two leading divas, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, doing what they do best at the Guggenheim Museum.

Posted in Uncategorized

NEW! “Hello, Dolls- it’s so nice to have you back where you belong.”

Call it an experiment or call it a wild burst of nuttiness.

Either way…meet CECILY and FLORA.

New Look CecilyThis is Cecily. Over there is Flora the blonde.New Look Flora

They are two vibrant young ladies with a passion for creativity (like someone else you may know). They’re not triple threats- Cecily can’t really sing and Flora has two left feet- and, in fact, also have very different tastes when it comes to art. Chances are that Cecily and Flora won’t agree on much of anything. (Opposites attract!)

But it is for this reason that the ladies began writing a newsletter that tackles the performing arts from two distinct perspectives. Puccini’s Chronicles is happy to announce its merger with them; Cecily and Flora’s bulletins will now be published exclusively through here.

I hope you enjoy this new feature, and thanks for reading Puccini’s Chronicles!

Posted in Theatre

The Lincoln Center Manual

Lincoln Center is one of the most iconic performing arts institutions in the world. From world-class opera productions to beautiful ballets to film analysis: no matter which art form you prefer, there’s a spot in Lincoln Center for you to find like-minded folk. But navigating this lovely complex can be daunting at first, so I’ve broken it down for you.

  1. Metropolitan Opera House

This luxurious arched building behind the great fountain plays host to many different operatic shows every year. Some 800,000 people attend more than 200 performances at the place every year. Blending gifted singers with visionary directors, the Met promises you quality artistry and a night to remember. And there are subtitle screens at every seat!

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  1. Vivian Beaumont Theatre

The only Broadway house in the complex is named for Vivian Beaumont, a philanthropic heiress who financially supported the completion of this theatre. It is a rather large venue; noteworthy shows that have played here in recent years include The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific, and The King and I.

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  1. Alice Tully Hall

Film and music buffs should find themselves at this hall, the building next to the Juilliard School. Since its opening in 1969, it’s played host to the annual New York Film Festival and also serves as the home for Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society. The Alice Tully Hall was renovated in 2009. Interestingly, there is an enormous pipe organ in the venue rivaling those often found in cathedrals.

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  1. David Geffen Hall

This concert stage has gone through a lot of names. It began life in 1962 as the Philharmonic Hall, became Avery Fisher Hall in 1973, and got its current name in 2015. The venue of choice for the NY Philharmonic, David Geffen Hall features a vast lobby and houses many beautiful sculptures within its walls.

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  1. David Koch Theatre

Formerly known as the New York State Theater, it was one of the first buildings to open at Lincoln Center. Although the default home of the New York City Ballet, it also serves the Royal Ballet and the annual Mostly Mozart Festival. Architecturally, it is known for its winding staircases and modern art displays as well as stud lights around the orchestra and an impressive chandelier.

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  1. David Rubenstein Atrium

This is a relatively quiet spot, one that’s a very popular gathering point and a great place to begin your LC journey. It is one of the newer buildings on the campus, existing only since 2009, but has quickly grown into a versatile space with free Wi-Fi, a café, and a 42-foot “media wall.”

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  1. Other Locations

Of course, these major parts of Lincoln Center are just the tip of the iceberg. Nestled in between are parks, studios, the lauded Library of the Performing Arts, and many more sites to whet your cultural appetite. If you do get lost, there’s no need to fret; you may very well discover something new and wonderful. And if worst comes to worst, just flag down a native and ask for some directions!

(Source: GoVisitNYC, as written by yours truly.)

Posted in Theatre

Spotlight: Sing Prima Donna, once more!

The upcoming Broadway season is filled to the brim with new musicals. And now that Hamilton is an incumbent show, the Tony Awards will actually be suspenseful this year. What makes this even more of a banner year- like last year was a banner year for ethnic diversity- many of the upcoming shows feature terrific ladies in lead roles.

While it can be argued that women remain underrepresented in the world of theatre, particularly in the creative jobs…we’re making great strides. It seems to have kicked off with Waitress last year, which featured Broadway’s first all-female creative team. For those of you who don’t know, that means the songwriter(s), director, librettist, and choreographer.

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“The day starts like the rest we’ve seen, another carbon copy of an old routine…”

The first show coming our way, although it doesn’t really count, is Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway. The reason it doesn’t count is because it’s a very limited run and more of a concert than a Broadway production. Still, it plays next month at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, undoubtedly a testament to K-Chen’s masterful career. The event will, I’ve heard, feature different songs/special guests each night.

Next up are the new Broadway revivals of Miss Saigon and Hello Dolly! which feature two of the greatest musical roles ever written for women. The two pieces themselves couldn’t be more different: Victorian-era Yonkers vs. Vietnam War, anyone? But the fact remains that newcomer Eva Noblezada and superstar Bette Midler (as the respective titular characters) are sure to give powerhouse performances and perhaps even snag some Tony Awards. We shall see.

After that comes Anastasia, a theatrical mashup of two Hollywood films (one of them animated) about the biggest Romanov family urban legend. Featuring a tunefully beautiful score by the dynamite Ahrens and Flaherty, the show stars Christy Altomare as Anya, reprising her acclaimed performance from Goodspeed, CT. She will be joined by stage veterans Ramin Karimloo and Mary Beth Peil.

Finally, it’s the ultimate diva smackdown with War Paint, a new musical about makeup mavens Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. And who better to play these larger-than-life personalities than Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, respectively?! This show was the biggest hit ever for the Chicago house where it premiered. Performances begin at the Nederlander Theatre on April 6th, 2017.

Which leading lady-driven musical are you most looking forward to this season? Do you have far-too-early Tony predictions? Share your thoughts in the comments!