The pocket opera companies that have sprung up around New York in recent years fulfill a great service in exploring unusual material. But that is not to say that they are necessarily expanding the active repertory.
On Site Opera finished a run of Darius Milhaud’s “La Mère Coupable” (“The Guilty Mother”) over the weekend, in what was said to be the work’s United States premiere, but given the difficulties of Milhaud’s score for performers and listeners alike, no company here is likely to revive it again soon. And LoftOpera is embarked on an hourlong production, “Pergolesi & Vivaldi,” at the Muse, a vast industrial space in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, focusing on Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater,” which is also unlikely to become a permanent fixture.
Pergolesi wrote several operas in his brief lifetime (if not as many as were attributed to him), but his “Stabat Mater” (1736), a gorgeous setting of a liturgical text for soprano, alto and orchestra, was not one of them. The text merely reflects on the sorrows of Jesus’ mother, Mary, as she witnesses his crucifixion, with no dramatic action to speak of. Not that others have not tried to stage it. In another small-scale venture just two years ago, Morningside Opera and Siren Baroque did so in an odd coupling with Pergolesi’s little opera “La Serva Padrona.”
The music, in a sort of post-Baroque galant style, is often sensuous, sometimes even perky, despite its mournful subject, and it may be that duality that leads directors to think they can tease from the work something more than abstract emoting. LoftOpera’s production sets the scene with music of Vivaldi, a sonata and a sinfonia “Al Santo Sepolcro” (“At the Holy Sepulcher”) and two arias of consolation and hope, and there is plenty of emoting. The arias are sung by Heather Buck, a soprano, and Randall Scotting, a countertenor.
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