Gotham Chamber Opera

Where opera gets intimate.













The Wall Street Journal Review: The Tempest Songbook
By: Heidi Waleson

Gotham Chamber Opera’s staging of “The Tempest Songbook,” performed in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, alternated the songs of Kaija Saariaho’s 2004 cycle based on Shakespeare with pieces, attributed to Henry Purcell, that were written in the 1690s for a production of Dryden’s version of the play. Immaculately performed by soprano Jennifer Zetlan, bass-baritone Thomas Richard, and an eight-member period-instrument orchestra conducted by Neal Goren, it was remarkable how vigorously these very different musical languages spoke to each other.

Purcell’s Overture in G minor, which had the rhythmic weight of a processional, was succeeded by Ms. Saariaho’s “Bosun’s Cheer,” in which Mr. Richard’s clamorous Sprechstimme cries of a mariner trying to keep his ship afloat rose over the skittering instrumental evocation of the violent storm. It was a contrast, but somehow in the same family. Ms. Saariaho wrote a song for each of the familiar characters of the play—Miranda, Caliban, Ariel, Prospero and Ferdinand—and her densely harmonic, visceral style, with its dark, sensual intensity, perfectly captured the dangerous magic of the play. In “Caliban’s Dream,” the insinuating, slightly grotesque vocal line seemed as organic and connected to the earth as Caliban himself; in “Ariel’s Hail,” sliding, glistening violin solos contrasted with the thrumming of heavy bass notes on the archlute and the harpsichord to make Ariel a strange but alluring alien being.

Yet distinctively modern as this music was, the Purcell songs in between did not seem jarring at all. For the most part, their role was to bring a cheerier note to the story—“Halcyon Days” offered a vision of a happy future, for example—but their surface brightness and civility got an undercurrent of menace from the tangy, rhythmically articulate performances of the period instruments.


For the full review visit

Photo: Thomas Richards, left, Jennifer Zetlan, center, and Abdiel Jacobsen,right
Credit: Richard Termine















The New York Times ReviewThe Tempest Songbook Closes Gotham Chamber Opera's Season 
By: Anthony Tommasini

Gotham closed its 14th season this weekend with a modest, though rewarding offering: “The Tempest Songbook,” which opened on Friday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A collaboration between Gotham and theMartha Graham Dance Company, this production was the brainchild of the conductor Neal Goren, Gotham’s artistic director, and the director/choreographer Luca Veggetti (director of “The Raven”). 

Juxtaposing Ms. Saariaho’s songs, which she rescored for a Baroque ensemble of eight instruments, with the songs by Purcell (for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume he was the composer), proved an inspired idea. So too was the concept of fashioning the music into an integrated piece for two singers and four dancers. The simple, bare set, on the stage at the museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, was dominated by a grayish, earthlike orb hanging from a cord upon which atmospheric images by the video artist Jean-Baptiste Barrière were projected. Sometimes the globe became a swirling mass of abstract colors and shapes, suggestive of continental drift. During eerie stretches, murky images of the performers appeared on the orb, which periodically was raised, or spun, or pushed around. Gotham continues to stretch and grow artistically. As an offering in an opera season, “The Tempest Songbook” was fairly modest. Still, better to grow slowly and soundly.

For the full review visit


Photo: Abdiel Jacobsen, left, and Thomas Richards 
CreditAndrea Mohin/The New York Times

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