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Opera in Close Quarters

I tend to leap at any opportunity to hear opera singers perform in an intimate venue. True, their voices are made – or at any rate trained – to fill vast spaces, reaching across a teeming orchestra pit to touch thousands of awed listeners.

But up close, you can watch how they breathe – how they summon the necessary stamina. You can read expressions, not just broad gestures.

Three events in New York this coming fortnight beckon us miniaturists:

– This weekend (through Sunday’s matinee), 59E59 Theaters harbors the Little Opera Theatre of New York performing Travelers, comprising a double bill of Gustav Holst chamber operas: The Wandering Scholar (a 1934 comedy) and Savitri (a 1908 work derived from the Mahābhārata). The latter features honey-voiced tenor Rufus Muller.

– The beleaguered New York City Opera, temporarily in exile, alights at El Museo del Barrio to present the New York premiere (!) of Telemann’s Orpheus  May 12-20, under the direction of Obie Award-winner Rebecca Taichman, who helmed Nico Muhly‘s entrancing Dark Sisters for Gotham Chamber Opera last fall (it’s set to resurface at the Opera Company of Philadelphia June 8-13.)

OperaManhattan has a whole festival of one-acts in store, in a tripartite program at the Theatre at St. Clement’s May 17-21: La Voix Humaine (story by Cocteau, music by Poulenc),  The Medium by Menotti, and Puccini’s heart-rending Suor Angelica.

I’m guaranteed an extra-close-up look at Suor, as a chorus member – the very best means I’ve come up with so far to score a better-than-front-row seat.