Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Green Sneakers

Tuesday night I heard the West Coast premiere of Green Sneakers, an intimate chamber opera for baritone & string quartet by Ricky Ian Gordon. It's a collection of about 20 songs in which the composer reflects on his grief at losing his partner to AIDS in 1996. Mr. Gordon's music is pretty but with just enough dissonance to make it poignant as well. The overall tone is consoling.

The stage was set with a grand piano at the back & a floor lamp, desk & chair at the front. Members of the Del Sol String Quartet, in street clothes, sat at the center. The piece was written for baritone Jesse Blumberg, & his voice is soothing & easy to listen to. He made a wonderfully intense, warm sound in the more emotional moments in "Sportswear" & the Epilogue. He was very comfortable moving on stage, playing the piano, & doing a kind of interpretive dance near the end. He projected the text clearly. I don't think I'd ever heard the words "Mobius Strip" sung before.

The quartet is an independent entity, often playing in counterpoint to the singer. The musicians played their parts with ease & were occasionally part of the staging. At one point the cellist had the awkward task of playing while standing. For the final number, the quartet moved the piano downstage, & 1st violinist Kate Stenberg gently encouraged Mr. Blumberg to play it.

Green Sneakers photo b3504dee-3b52-4935-b4dc-438680ce47c5_zpsd70665ba.jpgThe show ran an intermissionless 70 minutes. The audience was respectfully quiet & attentive. When members of the quartet entered at the beginning, a lady in front of me remarked out loud, "She did something wonderful with her hair." Mr. Gordon was in the audience & took a curtain call with the performers. Composer Jake Heggie was spotted greeting him afterward. Green Sneakers goes to Lincoln Center in April for its New York premiere.

Barihunks has some rehearsal photos.

§ Green Sneakers
by Ricky Ian Gordon

Jesse Blumberg, baritone
Del Sol String Quartet
    Kate Stenberg, violin
    Rick Shinozaki, violin
    Charlton Lee,  violin
    Kathryn Bates Williams, cello
John de los Santos, director & choreographer

February 19, 2013, 7:30p

Fort Mason, Southside Theater

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