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East Village Opera Company at Lisner

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • March 31, 2008

Opera purists, unlock your doors -- it's safe to come out. But if you missed the East Village Opera Company's high-octane show at Lisner Auditorium on Saturday, you missed a chance to hear opera in its wildest new incarnation. The New York-based band turns classical arias into headbanging rock anthems, complete with electric violins, screaming guitar solos and a pair of amped-up singers. And amazingly enough, it works.

evoc2.jpgThe show got of to a desultory start, though, as if the East Villagers had all just rolled out of bed. Keyboardist Peter Kiesewalter, who founded the band with lead singer Tyley Ross, opened with works by Verdi ("Questa o Quella") and Puccini ("Che Gelida Manina"), and soon singer AnnMarie Milazzo joined Ross for the touching "Flower Duet" from Delibes' "Lakme." And though it was all pleasant enough (Ross and Milazzo both have engaging pop voices, sexed up with a lot of growling and breathiness), they didn't exactly pull out all the stops. Even the fog machine seemed to be bored.

But midway through the show, things suddenly caught fire. Guitarist Ben Butler woke up and began turning in solos that started out searing and got more intense when Pauline Kim joined him on her electric violin. Ross, who'd been floating vaguely around the stage, began to swagger in true rock style, turning in a ferocious account of the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's "The Magic Flute." The fog machine began cranking out huge clouds of the stuff (and really, what is rock without fog?) and pretty soon, the whole house was clapping along to Handel's 1743 hit "Where'er You Walk." Not something you see every day.

Did the arias take a beating? Well, sure. You're not going to hear the nuance and delicacy that you hear in a traditional operatic performance. But that didn't matter; by show's end, the crowd was on its feet. With its over-the-top emotions and soaring melodies, opera, it turns out, translates beautifully into rock.

Posted on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 12:25PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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