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Reviews

Rebecca Choate Beasley as Cloris and Ann Monoyios as Zéphyre [Photo by Julie Lemberger]
21 Oct 2010

Rameau’s Zéphyre, New York

In sports they say, “Winning isn’t the most important thing—it’s the only thing.” In the theater, getting the show on the boards out front is the key.

Jean-Philippe Rameau: Zéphyre

Zéphyre: Ann Monoyios; Cloris: Rebecca Choate Beasley; Diane: Lianne Coble. The New York Baroque Dance Company, Catherine Turocy artistic director. Concert Royal, directed by James Richman. Symphony Space, September 22.

Above: Rebecca Choate Beasley as Cloris and Ann Monoyios as Zéphyre

All photos by Julie Lemberger

 

All else is, if not irrelevant, subservient: the look, the style, the star, the archival accuracy. You can pull any strings you like; just get out there and dance. Or sing.

For instance: You have rehearsed your company of dancers to present a court opera-ballet of mid-eighteenth century Versailles and you have got the proper sort of band to play it, and the dancers trained in the proper style, the graceful mincing steps, half-mime, half-dance, including the sheep and goats who stalk like sheep and goats with a dainty little waver-step, and attendants to the wind god who spread their violet cloaks as they leap into the air—but you have no tenor to sing the title role of the amorous (and, meteorologists tell us, prevailing) West Wind. Now, Rameau is no stand-up-and-belt opera composer. Refinement of accent and affect is called for to put him across. The voice need not—should not—be enormous, but the clarity of feeling as expressed by melody and ornament and pose are necessary to make the proper case for his elegant music. These are skills not often demanded of singers who prepare for opera; they are more suitable to Early Music singers, happily a far from rare breed in this new era.

So Catherine Turocy’s New York Baroque Dance Company, finding itself untenored, constructed its production of Rameau’s Zéphyre around a soprano, Ann Monoyios, once a reigning diva of the local Early Music scene, and got around the story’s mythic inconsideration with the announcement that she was portraying Madame de Pompadour, king’s muse and star of all the local theatricals in her glory days, as she might have presented a little Rameau pastorale for a few invited and exalted guests in the little theater at Versailles. Once that premise is accepted, we don’t even need to dress her in trousers. She’s in charge, she’s paying the bills, and if she wants to sing the boy’s part, God bless her.

Monoyios, whom I had not heard in decades, sounds a much younger woman than she could possibly be. Early Music does not take the toll on the cords that belting does, and her graceful phrasing, curlicue ornaments at meaningful times, and truth of character were extremely pleasing on this occasion, if a dryness did set in by the end of it. Rebecca Choate Beasley, as the object of her/his affections, did not have much to do but showed a sweet lyric line. James Richman’s Concert Royal gave sprightly accompaniment.

unicorn.gifAlexis Silver tempting the Unicorn danced by Valerie Shelton Tabor

Sets and costumes are half the battle in this sort of entertainment; at Symphony Space there was no set to speak of, but the company’s costumes (not credited to any particular designer) accomplished a great deal of scene-setting. Zéphyre was preceded by brief dances from several other Rameau works, including enough mythic animals (unicorns, fauns, gnomes) dancing in courtly but appropriate style to fill a whole new HBO supernatural series.

John Yohalem

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