‘Blood Wedding’ gives voice to Lorca’s genius’

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

Federico Garcia Lorca was one of the true literary wonders of the 20th century, his life cut short by Spain’s Civil War of 1936 when he was brutally assassinated. More tragic than his death perhaps is the fact we will never know what literary output would have been forthcoming. Lorca himself stated he was still learning his craft and that his work “ha” just begun.” We can, however, rejoice that his poetry and plays are still being presented.  A new translation of his “Blood Wedding,” the brainchild of Santino DeAngelo and Marty Murray, opened for the public last night (July 28) at Know Theatre in Binghamton.

Directed by DeAngelo and Bobby Daglio, the show has some wonderful moments and flights of true creativity, if not always consistent throughout. “Blood Wedding,” in its new translation, makes no apologies for exposing Lorca’s details of love, lust, sadness and death; life’s components spilled out on what had been an actual tragedy he had read of in a newspaper.

Suffice to say without spoiling the plot that it’s a much darker themed “Romeo and Juliet” or perhaps even “West Side Story” on speed. DeAngelo has written a haunting musical score to boot, with some very effective moments throughout the piece. DeAngelo,, a mere 20, is destined for great things and one has to ask if are we looking at the next Sondheim.

Dori May Ganisin as the tormented mother, while committed to her task, failed to catch fire until the very end when she finally develops that cool sense of detachment with all the has enfolded.  Many great lines were hers but this in particular — “while one lives, one struggles” — summed up the play’s intent. Co-director Daglio was a confident and convincing Groom. His self-control with the mother’s nagging was palpable.

Benjamin Williamson as Leonardo was excellent. He conveyed not only the characters human flaws, but his sincere love for the forbidden Bride of Wendy Abels. Abels, though somewhat understated, made a convincing turn as the woman who is torn but ultimately pays the price when the action she takes  has a solemn consequence.

Tim Gleason was also very good as the Father; a man of conviction who blindly faces the future with no regard for the past. The supporting women — Dara Kramer as the maid and Joanna Patchett as the neighbor — successfully conveyed not only their sexual frustration but the fragility one needs to love, a component as relevant today as when Lorca first penned this play. One very apropos line by the maidjumped out:”Marriage is the bed and the bedroom.”

Shannon DeAngelo sang a haunting lullaby as the Mother-In-Law with Suzannah Herschkowitz as the long-suffering wife of Leonardo. Death was portrayed by Dinah Tennant. Special mention should be made of the Greek Chorus of  sorts, called here Duende: Dustin Hirthler, Jake Wentlent and Jonathan Molyneaux.

The performance, not without minor flaws, was overall very good and what DeAngelo and Murray have achieved is truly an inspiring piece of theater. But the real reason for rejoicing is the re-evaluation and uncovering of the genius of Lorca’s works, which once banned but now have an indelible place in the world of the theater.

NOTE: Performances continue at 8 p.m. July 29 and 30 and 2 p.m. July 31 at Know Theatre, 74 Carroll St., Binghamton. Call 754-6352.

(Editor’s Note:  “Blood Wedding” is funded in part by a 2011 project grant from the United Cultural Fund, a program of the Broome County Arts Council.)

Exuberant Galumpha Gang combines artistic disciplines to go ‘splish, splash’

Reviewed by David L. Schriber

“Splish, splash, I was takin’ a bath …” – Bobby Darin and Murray the K, 1958

“Oceans, lakes, rivers, rains, baths, showers, washes, quiet flows, puddles, pools, splashes. We love the water.” – Elise Mayer, 2011

Combining poetry, music, tumbling, acrobatics and interpretive dance, Galumpha’s fourth Galumpha Gang camp for kids brought together 37 children ages 7 to 18 for two weeks to plan, practice and perform a program of exercise, art and entertainment. Galumpha Gang 2011 presented “Water” July 22 at the Jewish Community Center in Vestal.

Galumpha Gang is a collaboration between The Discovery Center of the Southern Tier and the internationally acclaimed acrobatic troupe Galumpha, most of whose members are Binghamton University theater alumni. A Galumpha show is a unique experience you don’t forget. The grown-up version has appeared around the world and its “Velcro” routine, with dancers sticking to a Velcro wall, was featured on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Galumpha president and camp director Andy Horowitz is an artist-in-residence with the Binghamton University Theater Department. He explained to the audience at the JCC that all the camp started with was a theme: water. Everything else — the poetry, the movements, the music — were all created by the children with help of the staff and interns, plus musical director Jim Glasgow and lighting designer Howard S. Klein. The result: a collage of two dozen short scenes each with one of the children reading his or her original, free verse poetry.

Some scenes choreographed the whole ensemble swaying like ocean waves, flowing like a river or cascading like a waterfall. Others featured several children in acrobatic formations imitating animals. The formations taught the children valuable lessons in coordination, cooperation, teamwork and trust, as some involved cantilevered balance and others had people hanging upside down. Dramatic colored lighting and lively music created ever-changing moods. Special effects included stroboscopic “lightning” and conga drum “thunder.”

The poetry revealed some serious thought by some children about the many forms water takes and its importance in our lives. There’s calming water, flowing water, rushing water, stormy angry walls of flood waters. Some kids told fanciful fables of frog, octopus, cats and monsters. Some spoke to environmental concerns.

Horowitz and company catalyzed and channeled the children’s energy and enthusiasm into a delightful stage experience. It was a chance to be active and creatively playful, yet using discipline and structure to transform free play into an art form.

There were reportedly tears at the end from children sad that two exciting weeks had passed so quickly. Many were determined to make this a must-do activity next summer.

Note:  David L. Schriber is the grandfather of Galumpha Gangster Sheridan Ballard.

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Thought you’d like to know: Great White Way extends to Glimmerglass

Check out Daniel Wakin’s July 15 New York Times article about Wagnerian soprano Deborah Voigt’s Broadwayesque turn in Glimmerglass Festival’s production of “Annie Get Your Gun”: http://tinyurl.com/6jogaff. Also in the Cooperstown production: TCO favorite Jake Gardner as Buffalo Bill. And here’s a link to the Times’ review of the show: http://tinyurl.com/3fp4uj9.

Performances continue July 22, 24 and 30 and Aug. 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 20 and 21, in repertory with three other productions. Details: www.glimmerglass.org.

The following are links to Jane Dieckmann’s July 13 Ithaca Times reviews of “Medea” (http://tinyurl.com/3rlr7xk) and “Carmen” (http://tinyurl.com/6zr8ame) at the festival formerly known as Glimmerglass Opera. David Abrams of MusicalCriticism.com also reviewed “Carmen”: here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/435pfcp. Remember: BAMirror would love to hear about your visit(s) to Glimmerglass this summer.

What did you do in the arts this week?

As a loyal vintage Summer Savoyard, I, of course, attended opening night of the local Gilbert & Sullivan troupe’s delightful production of “Patience” and brought the junior art lover with me. He, in turn, was glad for companionship at the final Harry Potter flick, which we loved. How about you? What did you do in the arts this past week?

Savoyards’ ‘Patience’ has something for all

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

The Summer Savoyards opened their 51st season Thursday (July 14)  at Binghamton University’s Anderson Center with, surely, something for everyone. With its colorful costumes, stage lighting, sets and music, this performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience” will please the most diehard G&S fans while, perhaps, make believers out of those with no previous exposure to the English duo’s satires with their very unique place in musical evolution.

“Patience” was G&S’s take on the excesses of the aesthetic movement. The pace for this production was set by Michael Woyshner as doleful poet Reginald Bunthorne, his first lead role with the troupe. One has to ask: “Where has he been hiding?!?” Woyshner is a good singer with a strong voice, and his acting is exceptional. His stage presence and comedic
skills are jaw-dropping.

As Patience, the milkmaid loved by Bunthorne, soprano Jana Kucera sang with a lovely rounded tone, her soprano having no difficulties in the higher register and plumy warmth in her middle and chest register. Why she isn’t singing more operatic literature in this area is a puzzlement.

Another young man making his debut was Patrick Tombs as the Duke of Dunstable. For one so young (a mere 16), he has a lovely sound, which will no doubt develop over time, and his acting was spirited and enjoyable.

Gregory Keeler proved once again that G&S is a very easy place for his fine tenor and comedic timing. As Archibald Grosvenor, Bunthorne’s poetic and romantic rival, Keeler conveyed the character’s love of self especially with lines such as “I am a trustee of beauty.”

The fine chorus had some shining moments as well, the ladies in their Isadora Duncanesque posturing and the uniformed dragoons in their fruitless pursuit of these “twenty love sick maidens.” Stage director William Clark Snyder has an affinity for these popular operettas and has devised, as usual, some very effective and catchy staging. (Watch for one moment in particular for a humorous and shameless plug for our local public radio station.)

Almost all secondary leads were done very well; the only complaint was a loss of diction which was due, in part, to the fast patter of some of the material. Jessica Pullis was a funny, “over the top” Lady Jane with Julia Mahar as Lady Ella and Julia Adams as Lady Angela. Michelle Thompson’s lovely voice spilled out Lady Saphir.

Rick Barton as Col. Calverley and Michael Lipton as Major Murgatroyd both had some fine moments in ensemble and solo passages. Humor, if not always understood due to the very nature of the British, was evident throughout.

Special mention must be made of the small but fine playing orchestra led with clarity by Heather Worden. It was so good at times that one almost forgot that this was a community theater production.

The opening night audience was small but appreciative, responding enthusiastically to many of the show’s standout numbers. Let’s hope future performances are better attended as we sometimes forget the wealth of accessible talent within the local ranks here.

NOTE: “Patience” continues at 8 p.m. today and Saturday (July 15 and 16) and 3 p.m. Sunday (July 17) in the Anderson Center Chamber Hall. Tickets are $18 ($16 today for “Family Night.”)  Call 777-4237.

Thought you’d like to know: General manager George Steel elaborates on City Opera plans

For those of you following the travails of New York City Opera, here’s the latest, as reported by The New York Times’ Daniel Wakin, who attended a press conference by George Steel, the company’s general manager and artistic director: http://tinyurl.com/5w7rq8x.

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‘Rounding Third’ hits a home run at Chenango River Theatre

Reviewed by Lee Shepherd

“Rounding Third,” the second production in the Chenango River Theatre’s 2011 season, hit a home run on opening night. No knowledge of baseball is required to know they’re batting 1000.
Despite 2 inches of rain, a power blackout that afternoon and a flooded parking lot, the show went on before a sell-out crowd.
“Rounding Third” is a two-man play that paired gifted actors Jack Harris and Drew Kahl in an unforgettable “odd couple” of Don and Michael. At first glance, they couldn’t have been more dissimilar – from different social classes and backgrounds, with diametrically opposed life philosophies. Blue collar versus white collar. Sports jock versus nerd. Beer-swilling boor vs. a touchy-feely tee-totaler. You get the picture.
Winning is all to Don, a house painter, who lives for baseball and coaching to spice up his otherwise empty life. He’d do whatever it takes to score. “I’d rather lose than cheat,” counters the principled Michael.
Don envisions glory for his son through baseball; he’s aghast when the boy chooses to dance in “Brigadoon” instead. “Jimmy’s gone over to the other side,” he moans. Although Don is a womanizer, he’s derailed when he learned his wife is having it on with his best friend and former assistant coach. Workaholic Michael wants to spend quality time wants his son and ensure that the boy doesn’t inherit his dad’s geekiness or be unpopular with the other kids, as he was.
As playwright Richard Dresser peels back these characters layer by layer like an onion, the audience discovers that they have one thing in common – they’re both striking out in the game of life. As they learn to look beyond superficial appearances and discover commonalities, they form a strange friendship that makes them both life’s winners.
Harris, a regular at CRT and a founding member of EXIT 18 Theatre Company in New Paltz, and Kahl, a member of the theater faculty at State University College at Oneonta, play their parts to perfection. Kahl is master of the double-take, reacting with hilarious deadpan to every obnoxious statement that his co-actor utters. Harris’ depiction of an unprincipled jerk is masterful and utterly believable. I’d eat my baseball cap if these guys aren’t really the characters they depict on stage.
Set design by Bill Lelbach (also sound designer) is clever, minimal and efficient. Lighting by Julie Duro and costume design by Barbara Kahl are first-rate. Choice of tunes broadcast on the P.A. between acts underscore the play’s messages cleverly. Refreshments and sweet guitar music by Tom Rasely in the lobby beforehand were a bonus to a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

“Rounding Third” continues Thursdays-Sundays through July 31 at the Chenango River Theatre, located at 991 State Route 12, Greene. Next production: The musical, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” billed as a romp of mistaken identity, friendship and love set at a Catskills resort in 1960, Aug. 4-21. Box office: 607-656-8499, or visit www:chenangorivertheatre.org.

Food for thought: Opera? Musical? Please respect the difference

“More than ever,” Anthony Tommasini wrote  in the July 7 New York Times, “composers are busily breaking down walls between stylistic categories. Opera in particular has been a poacher’s paradise. We have had folk opera, jazz opera and rock opera. Bono, who collaborated with the Edge on the music and lyrics of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” called the show “Pop-Art opera.” Whatever that means. But of all such efforts, mixing opera with the Broadway musical might seem by far the most natural combination. Then why are so many efforts to crisscross that divide so bad?”

Read the complete article at http://tinyurl.com/6fqdn8m.

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Precedent and prospect: A singer’s insight into Madrigal Choir’s new artistic director

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Frequent BAMirror reviewer and contributor David Schriber, who offers the following predictions for the Bruce Borton era of The Madrigal Choir of Binghamton, sings with the choir and is on its board of directors. He also served on the search committee that recommended Borton to be the choir’s new artistic director.

By David L. Schriber

With the naming of a new artistic director, The Madrigal Choir of Binghamton begins a new era. How will Brue Borton put his own mark on Anne Boyer Cotten’s musical legacy to Greater Binghamton? What can the choir and its audience expect?

I have a good idea, for I have sung with Bruce Borton’s University Chorus for more than 20 years. It took me just one semester to realize I had by serendipity stumbled across the finest choral conductor in the area. Since that time, and especially more recently as I prepared to retire and joined several other choruses and have sung under several other conductors, nothing has changed that assessment. For many years I thought Borton was one of the best-kept musical secrets in Broome County, until the Broome County Arts Council awarded him a Heart of the Arts Award in 2008 for his contributions to music in our community.

Before coming to Binghamton, Borton was a member of and conducting assistant with the late Robert Shaw’s Atlanta Symphony Chorus. One of Borton’s treasured possessions is the autographed poster that hangs in his office. Much of the wisdom of “Mister Shaw,” as Borton refers to him with reverence, lives on in this unpretentious man from Illinois. One thing Madrigal Choir singers will certainly learn from Borton is Shaw’s theory and philosophy of choral blending. Yes, I know, Bruce; Shaw never liked the term “blend,” but that’s what the rest of us call it. It’s all about how you shape your mouth and throat and where you place the sound in the resonating cavity. A lifelong learner, Borton continues regular attendance at conferences of the American Choral Directors Association.

Borton’s warm-up exercises are more than stretching the vocal chords to avoid voice strain. Besides tonal quality, they teach pitch control, accurate intervals, and rhythm. Borton is one of those people who can beat 3/4 time on one knee while beating 4/4 time on the other. His well-equipped toolbag of warm-up and rehearsal techniques, tips, and tricks has had its own ripple effect upon the dozen or so music teachers who sing at any given time in University Chorus, including our daughter’s high school chorus teacher at the time.

A vast command of repertoire across all periods and genres enables Borton to offer creative and entertaining programming, such as his guest concert with The Madrigal Choir in October 2009 with music from five centuries, all based on texts of William Shakespeare, and featuring collaboration with guest instrumentalists and actors.

Borton always prefers performing a piece in its original language (with full text translated to English in the concert program for comprehension). This will be a good fit for The Madrigal Choir, among whose members are many foreign language skills. It should also be appreciated in our community, which treasures its many ethnic traditions.

It’s likely that Borton, who directs BU’s own biennial Madrigal Feaste, will continue Anne Boyer Cotten’s unique traditions such as the biennial costumed Ceremony and Celebration for Twelfth Night. Borton will remember and respect where this choir has come from, even as he brings fresh and new ideas of his own. He has made singing an important part of my life and a source of enjoyment and satisfaction, of celebration and even consolation. His personable style will give cohesive leadership that will knit The Madrigal Choir even tighter together. He will bring constructive challenges to stretch singers and audience alike in a manner that is pleasing and widening of horizons.

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