Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Witch of Endor

Witch of EndorOver the weekend I attended Urban Opera's The Witch of Endor, a pastiche of music by Purcell. The site-specific performance took place in the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin on Union Street. The program began in the courtyard, where an actor impersonating a homeless man recited Kipling's poem En-Dor. The audience was then let into the dark church interior, where a small string ensemble was already playing entrance music. We heard excerpts from King Arthur, Abelazar, The Indian Queen, & other short instrumental & vocal works, culminating in the dramatic scene In Guilty Night. There was also a reading from Samuel by the Rev. Dr. Jason Parkin & a vigorous Caribbean drumming session.

The 5 string players plus harpsichord were a good fit for the relatively small space. The chorus of 36 easily filled the space with sound, & I especially liked their unaccompanied, dirge-like number. As the Goddess of Dreams, Lindsey McLennan sang from the loft above & behind the audience, wearing an overflowing, net-like white dress that she draped over the railing while a large crescent moon puppet was hoisted opposite her.

In the In Guilty Night scene I liked Shawnette Sulker's bright soprano, which was matched by her brilliant orange costume. The Opera Tattler no doubt envied the feathered headdress she wore. As the Ghost of Samuel, John Minagro had a deep & commanding voice. When he entered from behind the audience, it was at first difficult to locate where his voice was coming from, making for an other-worldly entrance.

The spectacle-like staging included a mix of Biblical & voodoo elements, a movie, a clattering film projector, bare-chested soldiers, a scene of physical violence, wafting incense & a procession. At the end, the chorus was revealed to have scary painted faces. When the performers gathered for their bows, it looked like a Baroque Halloween. At barely 45 minutes, though, the event felt thin.

This performance convened a number of local classical music reporters. Joshua Kosman, Lisa Hirsch, John Marcher, The Opera Tattler & Patrick Vaz gathered in a corner of the courtyard before the show. Immediately after the performance I accompanied the Opera Tattler to the airport, where we collected our favorite Belgian blogger. Both of my colleagues reminded me that this was the day 2 years ago that we three first met, at an Alex Ross event.

§ Urban Opera
E.E. "Chip" Grant IV, Artistic Director/Conductor

The Witch of Endor
Music by Henry Purcell

Old Man: Gary Graves
Lector: The Rev. Dr. Jason Parkin
Samuel: John Minagro
Saul: Colby Roberts
The Goddess of Dreams: Lindsey McLennan
The Witch of Endor: Shawette Sulker

Urban Opera Chorus
Urban Opera Orchestra

The Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin
October 30, 2010 4pm


The Opera Tattler said...

It was quite a festive event all around.

Axel Feldheim said...

Urban Opera's high sense of theatricality makes their productions feel like happenings as well as performances. It is too bad we had to skip the reception in the courtyard afterward.

Urban Opera is also good at treating their premium ticket holders well. Besides being able to slip into the venue before the rest of us, premium members got homemade cookies & Sofia blanc de blancs pre-performance.