By Elizabeth Ahlfors
Opera comes to cabaret and versatile Jason Graae is the one to bring it. How versatile is he? Graae’s resume includes oboist, Broadway actor, comic, singer, opera, musicals, dramas in roles as varied as Harry Houdini in Ragtime, Frosch in Die Fledermaus and Sparky in Forever Plaid. Now, oboe in hand, Graae joined forces with director Judith Fredricks to host A Night At the Opera at the Metropolitan Room featuring New York concert artists.
Not surprisingly, Graae set a comic mood as he entered singing Cabaret‘s “Wilkomen,” adding wryly it was the evening’s “only song from Broadway.” Then, in this intimate, casual setting, six superlative singers from the Opera New York company presented arias from a variety of stirring operas. Wisely, Fredricks chose the more popular works. Elena Heimur (lyric/spinto soprano) opened in a beautifully balanced harmonic duet with mezzo soprano, Jodi Karem in “Sous Le Dome Epais” (“The Flower Duet”) from Lakme, a work, Graae later quipped, famous for advertising British Airways.
Heimur had a notable solo moment singing the flirtatiously melodic “Musetta’s Waltz” (La Boheme), as the courtesan Musetta tries to make her ex-lover jealous. Mezzo Karem shone with her seductive rendition of “Mon Coeur S’Ouvre a Ta Voix,” seducing Samson to cut off his hair and lose his strength (Samson and Delilah).
In the powerful, “Si. Pel Ciel” from Verdi’s Otello, baritone Roberto Borgati as the deceitful Iago tried to turn dramatic tenor Percy Martinez’s Otello against Desdemona in an expansive duet. Martinez also injected the requisite drama for Pagliacci with “Vesti La Giubba” and Bergoti had another star turn robustly leading the ensemble in “Toreador” from Carmen.
Edgar Jaramillo, a dramatic and vocal tenor, delivered the poignant, “Nessun Dorma” (Turandot). Earlier, he had performed the traumatic, “E Lucevan Le Stelle” from Tosca. Veronica Loiacono tenderly performed Puccini’s tender, “O Mio Babbino Caro.”
While the ensemble accompanied several of the solo performances, Loiacono, Karem, Jaramill and Borgatti joined together for “Bella Figlia Dell’Amore” from Rigoletto. The closer of the evening was an ensemble delivery of La Traviata‘s “Libiano,” thrilling the room with what might be considered the ultimate drinking song.
Graae played no small role in the evening, adding humorous snippets about the opera before each performance as well as playing the oboe, impressively joining Loiacono’s vocal flights in “Pa-pa-pa” from Magic Flute. On piano was music director, Michael Fennelly with sparkling energy and sensitivity.
A Night At the Opera on October 5, ran for 75 minutes. If you want to read more about Opera New York, go to www.operany.com.