In this staging she also sang those words to Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, as mezzo Blythe Gaissert returned to the room, still in costume. It was a nice touch by Einhorn, making the two vaguely similar pieces suddenly rhyme clearly. (Men!)
The starkly simple production by Sarah Meyers, which placed Pojanowski in the merciless glare of a single spotlight, proved one of the most effective stagings I've seen from the always-inventive On Site Opera.
Here, director Sarah Meyers added strategic lighting to the dark vaults of the crypt, along with a minimal acting surface and a simple chair. That, plus the accompaniment of Mr. Kallor and Mr. Roman was enough to create the sheer psychological terror of Poe's tale, as sung by mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Pojanowski.
Both director and performer made wise use of this performance space. Special mention should also be made of the lighting design by Shawn Kaufman, which included the clever deployment of a manipulated spotlight to highlight the narrator’s creepy obsession with the old man’s eye.
I would not have wanted to hear either opera anywhere else....without that separation from the audience, Partridge and Gaissert leveraged the closeness, relying on the transparency of their characters’ damaged psyches, indulging in murmured pianissimos and quick turns that might get lost in a bigger house. The result was both lavish and intimate.
There was the gobsmacking experience of having the performers right there at one’s elbow, inches away – Cleopatra’s gown wafting against your shoulder as she passed, Miss Havisham’s old lace perfuming the air as her doleful countenance met yours in a transfixing intimacy. And, above all, there was the sound!
The breaking down of the audience-singer barrier is a critical element in eliminating some of the boundaries necessary for a new generation of fans to come into the opera fold...It’s right here in front of me, intimate, visceral. Which is what opera is supposed to be.
Both singers were of the utmost refinement, not to mention impeccably made up and dressed, and the space was truly next level. Eric Einhorn's direction was solid and made a good use of the space. In a stroke of genius, towards the end of Miss Havisham's delirious performance, he had Cleopatra come back in and have tea with the the crazy bride, almost as if the Egyptian queen was one of the many hallucinations of a disturbed mind.
On Site Opera likes to match the subject of an opera with its production location. Its most recent production of two monodramas by Dominick Argento and Hector Berlioz took place in the Grand Ballroom of the Harmonie Club. Queen Victoria would have liked it, and Prince Charles and Camilla would fit right in.
Music Director Geoffrey McDonald handles his chamber orchestra with incomparable skill. He was fortunate to have the string quintet known as "Sybarites" augmented by seven winds, percussion, harp and piano, performing the score to Miss Havisham's Wedding Night the 1979 monodrama by Dominick Argento. The orchestration was quite interesting with growling bass and profuse employment of percussion.