- Fringe Scene Stealers
- Performers from Musicals and Concerts Who Really Stole the Show
- By Joel Markowitz
This Fringe is all about the Music for me, so I’m throwing the spotlight on performers and musicians who were real standouts. Add your own favorites – musicals of not – in the Comments section. Let’s give them a hand!
When Daniele sang the first notes of her opening aria in Signor Deluso, I closed my eyes and imagined I was in the Metropolitan Opera House. Here was a spine-tingling gorgeous voice on the Warehouse Mainstage, in a Capital Fringe Festival production! All I kept thinking was, “Leon – you a crazy man not to want to love this woman!”
Joel: Please describe Celie’s first aria, which you sang so beautifully.
Daniele: It is the audience’s look at her sincerity and devotion to Leon. Though he has been gone to Paris for some months, she dutifully waits for him, imagining the tender words he said to her almost a year earlier, before he left for Paris. I believe this is a ritual she began as soon as he left and continues, much to the chagrin of Rosine, her maid and confidante. The interesting (and hopefully amusing) part about this is that Celie sings this beautiful music on the heals of a tantrum where she has yelled at her father, who is arranging her marriage to Valere, a man who lives close by and happens to be rich. Rosine attempts to convince Celie that she could end up old and alone like her if she doesn’t go for the rich available Valere. Celie responds sharply and stomps off as she declares that she doesn’t care how much money Valere has. She loves Leon and Leon loves her. The aria begins and she is instantly transported to the moment when Leon first spoke his parting words to her:
Celie, my sweet, please wait for me. I’m coming back to take you with me.” “We’ll marry soon Celie, and live on love alone. That’s all we really need. Let the rest of the world fight for money or power. What need have we for the world when we have each other? Wait for me, Celie, my darling. And when I can I’ll make you mine. I want you, and more that that, I need you, but more than that, I love you Celie, Celie my own!”
Celie’s aria is a lovely example of Thomas Pasatieri’s lyrical writing. Each character has an aria which helps to define them. The young lovers have longer, lyrical lines that are very romantic, both in style as well as meaning whereas Rosine, for example, sings choppy broken up phrases. She is unfulfilled. Celie, on the other hand, is full of hope and possibility. The aria begins with an interval of a ninth, a pretty large one, and lilts as Leon asks her to wait for him. The phrase where she sings his assurances, “We’ll marry soon, Celie, and live on love alone,” is written just as it is spoken. It is matter of fact. In their minds this will all happen perfectly. The following two phrases are longer and more expansive as Celie repeats Leon’s beliefs that they can do anything together.
As the aria reaches the climax at the end, the phrases shorten and move faster, desperately, until finally Celie erupts into high B natural as she sings “Celie my own”.
I love singing this aria. There’s a lot of singing to do in this short piece. The soprano has to float some phrases and climb through the middle voice, wail a little, then climb some more, and wail again. It’s really fun.
Joel: What is Opera Alterna?
Daniele: Opera Alterna is a new DC based opera company founded in 2007 by Jay Brock and Sarah Philippa designed to bring a fresh approach to the art form. It is our goal to produce new and classic operas designed to engage audiences with artistic professionalism and innovative productions. Our singers are all young artists. We are committed to broadening our approach to sung drama by making the performances relevant to the audience and ourselves as acting singers. On a more casual note, we all make a great team. The rehearsal process has been hard work, but the most fulfilling, fun work anyone could imagine. The whole cast, crew, and director in this production are incredibly talented, professional, and devoted to their art form. You couldn’t ask for better people.
Joel: Where did you receive your vocal training?
Daniele: I received my BA in vocal performance from the North Carolina School of the Arts, and MM, Opera Performance from UT Austin where I sang as a mezzo-soprano. After moving to soprano repertoire, my roles also include Saffi from Zigeuner Baron, Psyche from Princess Ida, Gianetta and Adina from L’Elisir d’Amore, and Nora from Riders to the Sea. In December, I won the Edvard Grieg Competition hosted by the Royal Norwegian Embassy. In May, I traveled to Bergen, Norway to perform in Bergen’s annual international music festival where I was pleased to sing in the famous Grieg Hall as well as the Rekstensamlingene. I am the student of Bill Schuman (New York) and Fleta Hylton.
- Tickets: Signor Deluso and The Women
- Remaining Shows: Sat, July 19 at midnight . Sat, July 26 at 9 . Sun, July 27 at 6:30
- Where: Warehouse, 1021 7th Street, NW
Joel: Tell us about Wiener Sausag!e – The Musical.
Kate: On the surface, Wiener Sausage: The Musical! is a fun and silly parody of life, love, sex, politics and war, although I think that a deeper message resonates beneath it all. It portrays a corrupt world in which people in power are consumed by their appetites, whether they be for wealth, political power, sex…or sausage. In the end it has an uplifting message — that love conquers all and innocence will reemerge in the world.
Joel: Who is Jo?
Kate: Jo is a young, perpetually confused woman who is in search of a more exciting and meaningful life outside of her sheltered existence as a layaway clerk in a mega store in the Midwest. She was born with both male and female sex parts and, as an orphan, was raised in a broom closet at the mega store. When she is thrust into the real world, it proves to be a little overwhelming for her. An admirable aspect of this character, I think, is that she remains uncorrupted by the evils of society.
Joel: How much of Kate is in Jo and the way you play her?
Kate: I identify with the character more than I care to admit. She is a blind optimist with a heart of gold and the mental capacity of a toddler; however I think that I identify with her desire to see the world as it should be: a magical wonderland with Kool-Aid teardrops and happy leprechauns dancing about in fields of poppies. But, really, I think that it is easy to understand why this young, rather naive girl wishes for this perfect, fantastical existence in a world that is so full of corruption and greed. In this play, she represents the hope for a better, though maybe not brighter, future.
Joel: Tell us about your big number.
Kate: My big shining number is “The Best It Gets.” Before this moment, I had been summoned to DC for what I thought was an important position as a TV journalist, only to be tricked into exposing a scandal that helps the scheming warmongers quash a liberal anti-war effort. Meanwhile, I fall in love with a young Capitol Hill staffer named Johnny. At this point, I have just confessed to Johnny that I am partially brain damaged, and he discovers that I am a hermaphrodite – an anomaly that he also shares. He loves and accepts me for who I am. As we are about to share in true love’s kiss, he, along with all of my hopes and dreams, is taken away from me by two sinister-looking men in black. In “The Best It Gets” I ruminate over my former rosy views of the world and life versus the cold reality of the corrupt world that I am now discovering. At this moment, my dreams of a life of love, success, and happiness have been shattered, and I long for my former happiness in my ignorance as an orphan playing with make believe friends in a mega store broom closet.
Joel: Tell us about yourself.
Kate: When I was a young lass, I participated in all of the school plays and various workshops offered in the area. I also did a little community theater. I minored in theater at Tulane University (I actually may have been a credit or two shy of a complete minor, but it is good enough in my book). After I graduated and moved to Chicago, I performed at a local storefront theater, The Cornservatory, which specializes in shows featuring off-color humor. I have been taking a break from the theater world recently, but jumped right back into it with Wiener Sausage: The Musical! I hope to continue my acting career in Chicago and, potentially, DC in the future.
Joel: I met your Dad after the show. Is he your biggest fan?
Kate: My father is definitely one of my loudest fans. His hulking belly laugh can be heard a mile away. I think that both of my parents and my husband will always be my biggest fans.
Joel: What is the Chicago theatre community like?
Kate: I live and work in Chicago, but I’ve been commuting back and forth between Chicago and DC in order to participate in the show. It has been a fun journey and definitely worth the long security lines and flight delays. Of all the shows I have been in, this has been one of my favorites. The experimental nature of this production has really allowed me, and all the actors in the production, to develop our characters and really make them our own. Each performance is unique … and hilarious.
Chicago has a wonderful young and vibrant theater community. There is a lot of experimental theater there, which is great. There are countless little storefront theaters that house small theater companies. Most of them are BYOB, too, so that is an added bonus. Improv comedy is also a big part of the theater scene here.
- Tickets: Wiener Sausage: The Musical!
- Remaining Shows: Sun, July 20 at 2:30 . Fri, July 25 at 7 . Sat, July 26 at 5
- Where: Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, 1725 Columbia Road NW
It’s an instrument that is usually hidden when you go to the symphony. I have always loved the sound of the bassoon, and Alan Michels’ gorgeous playing sent me into musical heaven when I sat in the audience listening to Thick Skin.
Joel: Describe Thick Skin for us.
Alan: Ryan Brown’s composition is his investigation of the plurality of the term Thick Skin through various movements that highlight different interpretations of the title, negative and positive. The first and third movements feature quite a bit of rhythmic repetition, supported by a jazz/rock drum beat, emphasizing some of the tougher meanings of the words. At times, the melodies in those movements are haunting and even screaming, yet at virtually no point does the rhythm stop-as though life just keeps going regardless of the situation. The second movement is far more emotional, expressing an insecurity and even depression at lost sensation. The third movement is a little happier and more focused than the first, but it ends in chaos, or maybe celebration. That’s part of what I love about music-you can take away your own interpretation of the meaning.
Joel: How is the bassoon used in the piece?
Alan: The bassoon is an unusual choice for Thick Skin, since it’s not an instrument often associated with music derived from rock and jazz themes. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice-I believe the selection highlights the flexibility of the bassoon specifically and new music in general. Ryan Brown uses the bassoon as a feature instrument, giving a number of solo lines throughout the first and third movements as well as a showcase second movement. Of course, working with a full rhythm section and four brass instruments means the bassoon has to be amplified, but I believe that only boosts interest in what’s happening in the piece.
The first movement, Scar Tissue, pairs the bassoon with the guitar to introduce one of the melodic themes, a repeating jazz/rock pattern. While it initially sounds surprising on the bassoon, it quickly becomes familiar as the basis for the tune. I feel lucky that I have a background playing jazz saxophone, since it helps me to grasp this music. Later, I get to play longer, more connected melodies that rise above the rest of the group, contradicting the short, rhythmic elements that form the basis of the movement.
The second movement, Under My Skin Is Numb, features the bassoon as a solo instrument, showcasing the instrument’s ability to express emotion-particularly melancholy-in a non-traditional setting. The movement calls for slow improvisation over the chords generated by the rest of the group, which allows me to make my own statements. In particular, Brown instructs the use of quarter-tones, or note bending, a technique that increases the intensity of feeling through the music. At times, I get lost in making the melodic lines-it’s easy to become introspective and lose sense of time.
The third movement, The Best Revenge, returns to some of the themes of the first movement, but in a more attacking, biting style with a harder rock edge. Here, the bassoon is paired with the bass to provide a strong platform for the other instruments, before again taking the solo lines several times. I really like this movement. It’s got a driving beat, and I really feel I can be part of musical engine, take a moment or two to shine, and then drop back into the groove with the rhythm section.
Joel: How did you got involved in the Great Noise Ensemble?
Alan: I was asked to join the Great Noise Ensemble by my friend Katie Kellert, one of the founding members, after its creation just three years ago. The idea presented by the founders was intriguing-people getting together to play fresh new classical music for the sake of playing and promoting it. They were so sincere and passionate about Great Noise and new music that it overcame my concerns about facing the growing pains of a new arts organization. It turned out to be an excellent choice. I’ve been able to stretch myself musically and mentally, understanding more about the music being written today and its electrifying possibilities. Heck, I even put on an Elvis jumpsuit last year to play the feature bassoon solo in Michael Daugherty’s Dead Elvis! If that’s not expanding my horizons, I don’t know what is.
Joel: Where did you get your musical training?
Alan: I’m a product of the Washington, D.C., area. I was born in D.C. and raised in Silver Spring, hearing jazz and classical music live and on albums at home and learning both genres through the Montgomery County school system. Although I bounced around in college, I got quite a good education from a number of bassoon professors, all of whom were very successful performers. Eventually, I graduated with a Bassoon Performance degree from the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Conn., and then returned to the D.C. area to settle into real life.
I find it challenging to balance a “day job” with the constant demands of music, but it’s certainly rewarding to deliver a strong performance and engage an audience, whether as part of a 110-piece orchestra, a member of the Great Noise Ensemble, or a soloist. As far as I’m concerned, there are few vocations or avocations that require the passion and dedication demanded by the arts, and it’s fantastic to work with people who have the drive to succeed in such a challenging world.
- Tickets: Carnal Node
- Remaining Shows: Wed, July 23 at 6:30 . Sat, July 26 at 9 . Sun, July 27 at 3
- Where: Hartman Center’s Forum Theatre, 610 S t, NW
I have always envied the percussionist who gets to partake in an instrumental buffet. Chris De Chiara ran the DC Marathon on Saturday night at the Hartman’s Forum Theatre, and I loved watching the joy on his face as he tapped, strummed and bowed his way through 5 Machines.
Joel: What is your role as the percussionist in 5 Machines?
Chris: My interpretation of 5 Machines is that the ensemble represents just that–a machine. It’s very rhythmic and consists of many repetitive patterns intertwining through the ensemble, especially in the
percussion part. Every player has a “role” in the machine, like parts in a clock.
The percussionist plays patterns that repeat many times. These patterns don’t necessarily have a sense of conclusion as most of them fall “over the bar line” (when a phrase doesn’t conclude at the end of a measure, but somewhere in the next measure). Some patterns also involve playing polyrhythms between the right and left hand. For instance, in the 2nd movement, the left hand plays a consist pattern of chords (i.e. a 4 beat pattern), while the right hand plays chords in 4 different variations of
a 3 pattern.
Most of the work is played on marimba with 2 mallets and 4 mallets. There are 2 brake drums (yes, from a car!) and 2 tom toms required for the 4th movement. In the 3rd movement, I have to play a vibraphone, but not in the traditional manner with mallets. The parts calls for every note (except for one!) be played with a bass bow. The vibraphone’s motor is also utilized so that each note has a slow vibrato after it’s bowed.
Joel: How did you get involved in the Great Noise Ensemble?
Chris: Like the other “core” members of the group, I answered an ad on Craigslist. I was looking for new groups to play in, and playing contemporary music was something I missed since I was in grad school. It turned out that the music director of the group (Armando Bayolo) was someone I met 8 years prior at the Aspen Music Festival and that he now lived down the street from me! We had our initial meeting soon after at Caribou Coffee and 4 years later, here we are!
Joel: Where did you receive your musical training?
Chris: I started playing drums when I was 13. I didn’t start music formally till senior year in high school (and I remind my students of that so they know how much farther along they are than I was!). I played in rock bands in the Boston area and wanted to be the next rock star. I thought going
to college would help to have some classical training. But things turned around as I became a classical musician and happened to be a rock star (in my own mind) on the side. I graduated with a Bachelor of Music from UMASS Lowell in 1996, and a Master of Music from New England Conservatory in 1999. During this time, I performed in many music festivals around the US and Europe (Aspen, Spoleto, Schleswig) and started taking orchestra auditions. I moved here in 2001, after winning a job with the US Navy Band in Washington DC. I also freelance, teach, and play in a rock band.
- Tickets: Carnal Node
- Remaining Shows: Wed, July 23 at 6:30 . Sat, July 26 at 9 . Sun, July 27 at 3
- Where: Hartman Center’s Forum Theatre, 610 S t, NW
Now it’s your turn. Let us know which performers in a play, musical or concert stole the show for you?