El gato con botas

Dec 05, 2014

Concerto Net

Harry Rolnick

While this week’s Denk/Stucky opera The Classical Style radiated with words, character, intelligence, and dramatic imagination, the first performance of Gotham Chamber Opera’s Puss in Boots yesterday equally dazzled with illusion, backgrounds, costumes, and puppeteering legerdemain. And its magical spell embraced adults, kids, the curious and the surprisingly spellbound.

Put me in the last category. Neal Goren’s Gotham Chamber Opera has given us visionary opera for the past 14 years, but this opera, with music by the virtually unknown (in America) great Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge, simply transcended anything I’ve seen from this group.

Even before the curtain rose, the theater itself in the Barrio Museum was enchanting enough, with its vast original murals of fairy-tales from Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty. Once the music started and the mangy cat of Charles Perrault’s four-hundred-year-old fairy tale showed himself with his Puppet-Masters and his singer, Karen Mushegain, that magic began. With fear (would Puss’s impoverished master eat him? Turn his skin into a hat?) and hope (so long as Puss was outfitted with sword, a cape and of course boots to help the poor Miller, played by the entirely human tenor, Craig Verm.)

After aforesaid outfit was suitable, stolen, the opera continued with Royalty (King and Princess), Evil (a bibulous Ogre) and rabbits.

Now, granted, this show had the benefits of beautiful sets, lovely singing, and above all, the most surprising puppeteering I’ve ever seen. But above all, it had music that was exciting, sometimes emotionally moving, and even unusual.

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