minutes) but complex chamber score (11 instruments) with impressive authority and control. Von Stade and Simpson may not have the same vocal resources they once did, but they delivered utterly committed performances and had no trouble meeting the demands of the score. Their frustrated adult children were well sung by the tenor Daniel Taylor and the soprano Sharleen Joynt.
Ne Quittez Pas was the umbrella title given to a two-part evening of which Jean Cocteau and Francis Poulenc’s La Voix humaine, starring Patricia Racette, took up the second half. The director James Darrah staged it in theatre of the living arts, a former neighbourhood cinema now used as a rock venue. Darrah’s conceit was to present a 1980s cabaret, with Elle probably a chanteuse, stopping in after hours and conducting her ill-fated conversation on the club’s phone. Seen on September 22, it was, as expected, a tour de force for Racette, one of the most powerful singing actresses before the public. It was a thrill to see her perform the monodrama in such close surroundings, even though this was just the version with solo piano rather than orchestra. The pianist Christopher Allen’s work was expertly collaborative and sensitive to nuance. Racette’s expressive soprano, clear French diction and interpretative insight melded into a masterclass in vocal acting. All of this would have made for a satisfying whole. However, it was preceded by a tedious pastiche cobbled together by Darrah as a mystifying hour-long lead-in featuring a baritone and two actors. It used Cocteau’s Les Enfants terribles as a point of departure, with two decadent siblings luring a singer into the club and then tormenting him emotionally. None of it hung together well; it seemed like an overlong acting-class exercise. Edward Nelson’s smooth, stylish renderings of the Poulenc songs were pleasant oases amid the self-indulgent carryings-on devised for Marc Bendavid and Mary Tuomanen as the enfants.
Invited to create a piece for the festival, the versatile countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo rounded up an all-star team of his friends from various artistic disciplines to produce Glass/Handel, a 66-minute intermissionless extravaganza tied in with his newly-released CD and staged in the enormous lobby of the barnes foundation. Roth conceived and produced Glass/Handel with Cath Brittan and the event-production company known as Visionaire; the work involved costume design by Raf Simons, chief creative officer of Calvin Klein; choreography by Justin Peck; live-action painting by George Condo; dancing by Patricia Delgado, David Hallberg and Ricky Ubeda; and a stream of videos by the likes of James Ivory and Tilda Swinton. All of this took place simultaneously, while Costanzo alternated arias by Philip Glass and Georg Frideric Handel, accompanied by a separate orchestra for each composer under the elegant hand of the conductor Corrado Rovaris. To add to the already heady mix, spectators were continually moved in their seats to different vantage points around the enormous room by sturdy individuals who rolled them around on hand trucks. Like a Russian nesting doll, Costanzo first appeared in an enormous, billowy red-satin robe that he eventually removed to reveal a smaller blue one that also later came off; by the end of the show he was in a tight-fitting shift and red stiletto heels.
Seen on September 23, it all added up to a sense of overkill—but fun, glamorous overkill, never dull. With so much going on, one might have wondered where to look, except for the fact that Costanzo, with his charisma, sensitivity, plangent sound and communicative power, magnetized attention. He alone would have been more than enough, but it’s unlikely that many audience members had any regrets about being treated to this excessive, ultimately joyous experience. eric myers
Opera, December 2018