THE BASICS: The first true opera in English, early Baroque composer as the second half of an all-Baroque concert, one performance remaining, Sunday March 29th at 2:30 pm in the theater at Buffalo Seminary, 55 Bidwell Parkway.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Most early operas dealt with mythological figures, and this opera is about Venus, the goddess of love and the paragon of female beauty, and her lover, Adonis, whose name has come to mean the ultimate in masculine attractiveness. While Adonis is perfectly willing to while his time away on the couch with Venus, she encourages him to join in the hunt. He returns, shirtless, gored by a wild boar, and dies in her arms as she weeps. Not at all integral to the plot, but making for great theater, we meet Cupid and Cupid’s young pupils who dutifully take notes and are then each presented with their first arrow and we also have a chorus and dancers.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: First off, kudos to the Buffalo Chamber Players Artistic Director, BPO violist Janz Castelo, who has assembled a very strong all-Buffalo entourage for this production, totally in keeping with the mission statement: “The BCP’s mission is to enhance the public’s perception of chamber music while promoting the city of Buffalo as an inspiring place to live, work, and play.”
Most of the pit musicians are professionals with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (enhanced here by conductor/harpsichordist Roland E. Martin, viola da gamba player Nancy Nuzzo, cellist Natasha Farny, and Paul Schlossman playing recorder). Venus is sung by the beautiful Colleen Marcello, a favorite of Buffalo’s Opera Sacra (which provided props and costumes as well), and Adonis is sung by the handsome Kyle Botsford, who regularly appears with Buffalo’s Vocalis Chamber Choir. Speaking of which, Vocalis, including their artistic director James Burritt, provided an exceptionally strong chorus. The Little Cupids (cute as buttons) were four members of St. Paul Cathedral Boy’s Choir, the three dancers came from Neglia Ballet, and Buffalo Seminary students Madison Chamberlain and Tracy Clark alternate in the role of Cupid. As noted, Castelo has plucked from some of the city of Buffalo’s finest arts organizations.
All BCP concerts are held in the second floor theater of the Buffalo Seminary which is intimate, has a quaint look, and a small stage that lent itself perfectly to this production. It’s general admission, so get there early to pick your seats. There is a balcony available.
Most people know and love the famous baroque composers such as Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi, but this was an opportunity to hear music from a generation earlier by a composer of whom not much is known – the English court composer John Blow. One thing we do know is that he was the teacher of the more famous Henry Purcell and scholars feel that Blow’s “Venus and Adonis” was a model for Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” which also ends with an unhappy heroine.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!