It’s not like the New York Philharmonic has never been so weird before. I can’t be the only son for you Jessye Norman’s Hair, when she sang Brünnhilde’s Immortal Scene with the orchestra on national television in 1995, was a turning point. Supported group Mariah Carey in Central Park, and Elaine Stritch for the 80th of Sondheim. It ever paired Lou Harrison and Bruckner.
But it’s safe to say it didn’t present anything quite like Anthony Roth Costanzo and Justin Vivian Bond’s Philharmonic premiere as a duo on Thursday at the Rose Theater in Jazz in Central. Lincoln Center. Make a rich help of their recent show “Only an Octave Apart”, they make jokes about G-spots and travel for sex, crush Purcell’s Dido with Dido’s “White Flag,” layer Philip Glass on the Bracelet, and generally go camping.
When “Only an Octave Apart” was played in St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn last fall, it was a showdown on Beverly Sills and Carol Burnett’s 1976 special of the same name, bringing together Costanzo, an opera performer, and Bond, the bar diva. barbaric fun wine. I walked in with a bit of trepidation – a fan of both performers, but unsure if the test would be a success. Is it too stiff? Too silly? Talkative? Too self-indulgent?
It was great.
Hilarious and tender in turn – those double Didos are very much not meant to be amusing – the show is a small miracle of careful craftsmanship and improvisation, of overall character and emotional sincerity. motion. Costanzo was a fine, wonderful man who matched Bond’s beauty, and their voices – one thin and pure, the other hoarse and heavy with vibrations – were improvised. Their return to live performance after a year and a half of lockdown only adds depth and fun to their apparent love and respect for each other. It’s a nurtured pastry.
It still is. Along with the release an album versionthe show is a fitting opening to the festival “The True Self: Inner Beauty,” organized by Costanzo as part of his Philharmonic residence. Focusing on marginalized identities and (pardon the egotism) being yourself, the festival’s programs include a few premieres sung by Costanzo, as well as a rare reciprocal vocalist. Hoi performed the song “Les Nuits d’Été” by Berlioz.
On Thursday, I missed Zack Winokur’s fully elegant yet sophisticated staging of “Only an Octave Apart,” especially Jonathan Anderson’s mesmerizing gowns. But the 90-minute performance is compressed into a 50-minute concert half, the fusion of classical and cabaret smoothed by Nico Muhly’s lush yet sophisticated orchestra.
Some of the moody Nelson Riddle-style string arrangements – like the scoring of a Douglas Sirk melodrama – give a nod to what happened before the pause: the premiere of “Places” we leave” by Joel Thompson. Placing a new text by poet Tracy K. Smith, Thompson also revels in lavish, anxiety-ridden sonic sequences, and brings to Costanzo’s mellow, narrative lines that surge to piercing climaxes. penetrate. There’s even a splash of tired Handelian coloratura, a wink in a lover’s account of “taking my breath away” and at a Costanzo jet. (He appeared in “Rodelinda” at the Metropolitan Opera in March.)
The concert opened with Joan Tower’s No. 1 “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman”, and also included Prokofiev’s No. 1 symphony, “Classical”. What did this chestnut do here? In particular, performed by Jaap van Zweden, the Philharmonic’s musical director – who on the other hand is a sensitive leader – with his characteristically tight, reluctant approach to the standard repertoire .
But one aspect of the selection resonated. Like “Only an Octave Apart,” Prokofiev’s first work was created during the crisis, violent times of the February Revolution in Russia, but with a hint of that darkness in a sparkling work. Energy and grace.
Is creating joyful music in harsh times escapist, even reactionary? Sometimes it’s the other way around: “Classic” is like “Only an octave away,” about the past with a fresh spirit, a kind of progressive nostalgia. And like Costanzo and Bond on their show, Prokofiev uses work not to rest on his laurels but to push himself forward; The symphony was the first major work he wrote without relying on his beloved piano as a composing tool. It makes his future possible.
So seemingly unsatisfactory for a couple like Costanzo and Bond, these two works – the bridge between a period and a century – are a reminder that what emerges and remains from the era Our grief may not be what we expect. All we can do is give artists space to be creative and keep our ears open.
New York Philharmonic
The show continues through Saturday at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Manhattan; nyphil.org.
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