Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Evening at the World Financial Center: New York City Opera and "Rufus Wainwright Goes to the Opera!" at the Winter Garden

We just got to our nearby office after seeing a fantastic performance, "Rufus Wainwright Goes to the Opera!" with one of the most talented musicians of our time and four of the wonderful singers of the New York City Opera at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center.

The program featured excerpts from Wainwright's opera, Prima Donna, which will have its New York debut next year at City Opera (though we're not sure when and where yet, since the company has left Lincoln Center),

along with arias from Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Bizet and Massenet performed by soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird, mezzo-soprano Laura Vlasak Nolen, tenor Robert Mack, and bass-baritone Matthew Burns, and Kevin Murphy, City Opera director of music administration, on the piano

and a couple of great Rufus Wainwright non-opera songs, "Damned Ladies" and the exquisite "Who Are You New York?" He looked fetching in a tuxedo with what appeared to be black board shorts and flip-flops.

We tried out various places to stand to get the best acoustics, and actually the most wonderful sounds we got were when we stood in a corner in front of a huge pillar that totally blocked our view.

YouTube video courtesy of Derek Ouyang

But the arias sounded magnificent from the corner. We got up close and managed to see, from the extreme side, the New York City Opera performers in a wonderful Rigoletto Act III quartet.

This event was part of the amazingly diverse programming series of the River to River Festival. It was a wonderful program, though of course we are too ignorant to comment intelligently. Rufus's own comments on the arias were enlightening, however, and all we'll say is that we'd like to see Prima Donna and that we especially adored Laura Vlasak Nolen's "Seguidilla" (one of the few arias we really know) from Carmen.

We're grateful we got to see this. Coming out on the plaza of the World Financial Center at 8:30 p.m., we felt very grateful we got to see Rufus Wainwright and hear some opera tonight.

As for New York City Opera, it's really important, as Rufus said, that like other great world capitals (New York, Berlin), we should be able to support two opera companies, and we need to support what Mayor LaGuardia famously called "the people's opera." Tonight was just one teensy example of that.

Here is Allan Kozinn's review of the event in Thursday's New York Times.