Music by Gyorgy Kurtag, Text by Franz Kafka
Heartbeat Opera, March 2015
Set by Reid Thompson, Costumes by Beth Goldenberg, Lighting by Oliver Wason, Projections by Nick Hussong, Stage Managed by Sonja Thorson
Featuring Jacob Ashworth and Annie Rosen
Photos by Christopher Ash
Kurtag's athletic music ranges from the fiercest dissonances to bits of lyric nostalgia, and the totally committed performers made it savage, moving and—when appropriate—funny....
It is by no means obvious that there is gripping drama in this compelling and masterful but deeply enigmatic work, but that is precisely what Rosen and Ashworth brought to it, under the clearly inspired guidance of Heartbeat co-artistic director Ethan Heard. Purely as a feat of virtuosity, the hour-long performance was extraordinary. Yet beyond that, Rosen and Ashworth deployed their dazzling musical skills while enacting an intensely interactive two-person drama. Their joint music-making, usually singing and playing to each other at the same time, wove a fully-fleshed spectrum of emotion and experience, ranging from the soothing to the sensual to the terrifying. This reinvention of Kafka-Fragments, with thoughtful, well-integrated contributions from [the designers], is an odyssey through alienation and near madness to a kind of transfiguration, and a flat-out triumph for its two fearless performers.
Both mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen and violinist/Heartbeat co-music director Jacob Ashworth commanded the stage in a gripping and imaginative new production by Heard. ...If this production is any indication, the young Heartbeat Opera will be a company to watch, with the talent and ambition to make compelling music drama out of the very meanest of resources.
There is nobody out there on the NYC independent opera scene offering such a complete package at this level. They’ve got the singers. They’ve got the acting chops. They’ve got the directorial vision and the modest means to realize it. Scale and means do not matter when opera gets this intimate and is so perfectly crafted in each and every aspect, it is indeed distilled to its essence.
-Allegri Con Fuoco