Review Roundup: PIGMALIONE/PIGMALION at City Opera (Broadway World Opera)

New York City Opera continued its 2017-18 Chamber Opera Series with a unique double bill of Donizetti’s Il Pigmalione and Rameau’s Pigmalion, the first time these one-act gems will be presented on the same program. The production also marks the New York premiere of Donizetti’s first opera. This double was directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, with Gil Rose conducting the New York City Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Two performances of Il Pigmalione/Pigmalion were presented at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater on Saturday, March 24 at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 25 at 4:00 p.m.

Both Gaetano Donizetti’s 1816 Il Pigmalione and Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pigmalion were inspired by the myth of Pygmalion, the artist who begs Aphrodite to animate his sculpture of the ideal female form. Donizetti wrote the melodic score for Il Pigmalione when he was still a student. The one-act opera remained unperformed until 1960, and it remains a rarely-performed work by one of opera’s most prolific and famous composers. Rameau’s Pigmalion, an acte de ballet, was first performed in 1748 and is considered one of the composer’s best one-act works for the theater. This production marks the New York premiere of Donizetti’s Il Pigmalione and the first time these rare operas are performed together on the same program.

Let’s see what the critics have to say!

James R. Oestreich, NY Times: The Rameau production was much more heavily populated, mainly by dancers. Pygmalion remained at the center, surrounded by Céphise, a rival for his affections; Cupid, the life-giving agent; assorted onlookers; and the statue herself, whom Cupid quickly energizes. The rest is celebration, in a series of dances interspersed with sung hosannas.

Steve Ross, Times Square Chronicle: This concept definitely spiked my real world psychotherapist persona, causing me to run wild with this formulation, especially after reading in the program that in the first half of the twentieth century, modern psychiatry was prepared to diagnose a person with a disease called ‘Pygmalionism’, first described by Havelock Ellis in 1927. The sufferer of this disorder, although no one actually was ever diagnosed with it officially, is when a person has fallen in love with a statue. Literally. But, one can make a leap psychotherapeutically, and come to the conclusion that if someone has fallen in love virtually, describing a relationship based solely on a Facebook profile, an Instagram feed, or text messages of any sort, without ever actually meeting that person face to face, or even through FaceTime (although I’d even venture to question that interaction), then possibly that could be diagnosed as ‘Pygmalionism’. Because, to be frank, it’s almost the same thing. And as the world gets more and more disconnected with real life interactions and turn inward towards their projected idealism and virtual interactions, then one might see a rise in the phenomenon of ‘Pigmalionism’.

Eric C. Simpson, NY Classical Review: One of the problems of presenting obscure works like this is that there aren’t a lot of singers familiar with the parts to choose from. The young tenor Piotr Buszewski was fairly solid, though his pitch often strayed flat and his tone had a nasal quality to it. Jessica Sandidge’s soprano showed a hard edge in her brief appearance as the animated statue Galatea.

Richard Sasanow, BroadwayWorld: I’ve admired the work of tenor Thor Arbjornsson in Rossini–LoftOpera’s COMTE ORY and OTELLO–but he found the style of this French work not particularly congenial to his voice and seemed strained by it. Soprano Samarie Alicea, on the other hand, seemed much at home in both the singing and dancing of the Statue, while mezzo Melanie Long was fine as Cupid.