Press and Reviews

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UrbanArias in the news

 

Check out our great press!

 

After Life/Josephine

“. . . with bubbling musical heat emanating from the stage . . . UrbanArias, one of the region’s more exciting and reliably entertaining music groups producing new work, presented two one-act operas by composer Tom Cipullo, one of them a premiere . . . Beautifully prepared, vocally stunning, and theatrically riveting . . .”

– Patrick Rucker, The Washington Post
Click here to read the full review

“Classical WETA morning host David Ginder chats with Urban Arias’ General Director Robert Wood about After Life (focusing on Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein) and Josephine (in its world premiere, about Josephine Baker), about Tom Cipullo’s appealing music, and about how opera on a small scale is as compelling as grand opera.”

– David Ginder, WETA

Click here to listen to WETA’s interview with Robert Wood about AFTER LIFE/JOSEPHINE.
 

As One

” . . . a thoughtful and substantial piece as well as that rarest of operatic commodities — a story that lends itself to dramatization in music.”

– Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

Click here to read Anne Midgette’s rave review.
 
 
 
” . . . performed beautifully by Luis Alejandro Orozco and Ashley Cutright as the two sides of Hannah. Both singers possess powerful voices and sing and move with extraordinary expression and poetic interactions.”

– Susan Galbraith, DC Theatre Scene

Click here to read the whole review.

“Luis Alejandro Orozco as Hannah Before and Ashley Cutright as Hannah After sing with exhilarating power and sensitivity. And in those rare moments when they sing exactly same note—literally as one—the effect is sublime.”

– John Stoltenberg, DCMetroTheaterArts

Click here to read the whole review.

“Classical WETA morning host David Ginder chats with Urban Arias General Director (and conductor of As One) Robert Wood about opera’s ability to tell stories on a grand scale or a small one, its focusing on subjects from today’s headlines (and, in the process, attracting new people to the genre), and the thrill of opera in a small space where you see every facial expression, and feel as well as hear every note.”

– David Ginder, WETA

Click here to listen to WETA’s interview with Robert Wood

“I highly recommend this performance from a professional class of artists who are out to celebrate life.”

– Dana Beyer, Huffington Post

Click here to read the whole article

As One explores themes of acceptance, love, and identity. ‘It’s always my hope to tell a story that engages the fact that this protagonist is transgender, but very quickly find one way or another to get the audience involved emotionally on a human level,’ [co-librettist Kimberly] Reed says.”

– Connor J. Hogan, MetroWeekly

Click here to read the full article

“ ‘This project has changed me completely,’ Laura Kaminsky told me, ‘as an artist and as a composer. It’s been an amazing experience so far. For months, I was taking Hannah’s spirit everywhere with me. She was haunting our household.’ ”

– Christopher Henley, DCTheatreScene

Click here to read the full article
 

Blue Viola

“. . . funny, thought-provoking, absorbing, and certainly not what most of you imagine when you think of opera . . . it is a thoroughly enjoyable gem of a tale that anyone in DC ought to consider taking in.”

– Brett Steven Abelman, DC Theatre Scene

Click here to read the full review

“. . . gorgeous music, a clever and often-funny and tongue-in-cheek libretto, and a cast of talented singers – each possessing a gorgeous voice.”

– Joel Markowitz, DC Metro Theater Arts

Click here to read the full review

“UrbanArias’ production of Blue Viola, a new short opera by Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi, fills the Artisphere’s Black Box with deep, resonant voices, an accessible, compelling narrative, and exquisite music.”

– Elizabeth Bruce, MD Theater Guide

Click here to read the full review
 

 The Whole Truth

IMG_20150217_210019_838-1“The Whole Truth, with Music by Robert Paterson, Libretto by Mark Campbell, and directed by Courtney Kalbacker, is like Opera Espresso: short, concentrated, and energizing.”

“UrbanArias is clearly in pursuit of its goal of making an otherwise alienating art form accessible and entertaining. And that is enough, for now at least, because until now it is a pleasure largely reserved for the Kennedy Center set. UrbanArias is bringing opera to the masses, and that, truly, is something to sing about.”

 – Michael Poandl, DC Metro Theater Arts

 

Three Decembers

“As part of its mission, UrbanArias, the local chamber opera company currently housed in Artisphere’s black-box theater in Arlington, aims ‘to expose D.C.-area audiences to engaging, accessible, entertaining operas.’ By those criteria, its production of Jake Heggie’s 90-minute one-act opera “Three Decembers,” which opened on Saturday, hit all the right buttons.”

– Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post

Click here to read the full review

“Conductor Robert Wood takes his chamber ensemble to powerful heights that mirror and enhance the emotional journeys of the characters.”

– Alan Katz, DC Theatre Scene

Click here to read the full review

“The libretto, score, singing, acting, and orchestra make for the perfect modern opera. The art form is still alive and kicking and as Maddy says of life, ‘I’m awfully glad I showed up for it.’ Three Decembers is a touching and enlightening experience.”

– Jessica Vaughan, DC Metro Theater Arts

Click here to read the full review

Plus, an interview with Jake Heggie in Metro Weekly: “ ‘I always thought opera was kind of silly when I was growing up,” concedes Jake Heggie, adding with a laugh, “and sometimes I still do.’ ”

– Doug Rule, Metro Weekly

Click here to read the whole article

 

Bastianello & Lucrezia

“They are serious and well-crafted little works, appealing directly to opera’s sense of timelessness . . . well-written contemporary music that people are going to like. Catherine Martin [offered] a big, warm mezzo as the young bride and in various other parts, and Erin Sanzero an assured high soprano as the mother-in-law.”

– Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

Click here to read the full review

“Beautifully sung, hilariously acted, perfectly directed, brilliantly composed (John Musto for Bastianello and William Bolcom for Lucrezia, cleverly written (both by Mark Campbell)- these are just some of the ways to describe Urban Arias’ production of Bastianello & Lucrezia.

– Brennan Jones, DCMetroTheaterArts

Click here to read the full review

“Five seasoned performers play multiple and varied roles. UrbanArias is known for their fresh, witty, and often crazy takes on opera. Everything is short, contemporary, and sung in English. . . Bastianello and Lucrezia are uproariously funny. . . The music by vocal composers Musto and Bolcom is accessible, tonal, and tuneful. . . I can’t remember the last time I saw opera more refreshing, hilarious, and interesting. Oh yeah, it was the last time I saw an UrbanArias production.

– Rebecca Evans, DCTheatreScene

Click here to read the full review

Paul’s Case continues to generate buzz!

“Opera has abandoned the notion that one proscenium fits all. Companies are exploring new venues, from small (black-box theatres) to large (stadiums) to extra-large (live global broadcasts). The results can be resplendent: An UrbanArias production of Gregory Spears and Kathryn Walat’s Paul’s Case, directed by Kevin Newbury and presented at HERE Arts Center’s 150-seat space as part of last year’s PROTOTYPE festival in New York City, offered an emotionally devastating (in a good way; this is, after all, opera) performance, the power of the music and story enhanced exponentially through proximity.”

– Matthew Sigman, American Theatre Magazine

Click here to read the entire article

Paul’s Case in New York

“The story, instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever dreamed of escape, refinement or belonging, proved poignantly stage-worthy on Wednesday night at Here, where a taut, splendid operatic adaptation by the composer Gregory Spears and the librettist Kathryn Walat opened the second annual Prototype festival. Performed by UrbanArias, a young Washington company that specializes in contemporary chamber opera, Cather’s story took on the tones of dream and dance.”

“Robert Wood, the general director of UrbanArias, conducted the players of the American Modern Ensemble and the pianist Keith Chambers in a luminous account of Mr. Spears’s ravishing music…”

“All told, the sold-out premiere provided Prototype [Festival], which will offer four more new operas and related events, with a sublime start.”

– Steve Smith, The New York Times

Click here to read the full review

“…the [Prototype] festival can claim its first masterpiece, the chamber opera Paul’s Case. With music by Gregory Spears and a libretto by Mr. Spears and Kathryn Walat, this gem redeems dozens of evenings struggling with listless or unreasonably far-out contemporary opera.”

“It would be tempting to call this show the best new opera I’ve heard in years…”

“It’s a perfect marriage of text and music, creating a series of tableau-like scenes, as if Paul’s story is being related through a series of exquisitely posed still photographs…”

“…the American Modern Ensemble, conducted by Robert Wood, sounded appropriately ethereal or thundering as the mood of the opera gradually darkened. And Kevin Chambers nailed the grandiose piano solo at the climax of the work.”

– James Jorden, The New York Observer

Click here to read the full review

“I was haunted most of all by Gregory Spears’ PAUL’S CASE….The ending is as quietly harrowing as anything in recent American opera.”

– Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Click here to read the full review

“I admired “Paul’s Case,” a taut, hallucinatory drama, based on a Willa Cather short story, by Gregory Spears and Kathryn Walat, at its April premiere at Urban Arias in Washington, and the production lost none of its punch in the smaller, more claustrophobic theater at HERE.”

– Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

Click here to read the full review

“The chamber opera they wrote has been circulating for several years…Finally, it arrived at the Prototype Festival, and the result is a compact, alluring, and attractively obsessive work that bangs around claustrophobically inside Paul’s mind. In Kevin Newbury’s effective, tightly focused black-box production…”

– Justin Davidson, New York Magazine

Click here for the full review

“The voices in this production were uniformly gorgeous and particularly well suited to the material. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a cast of voices so strong in a theater so small.”

– Brian Rosen, musicvstheater.com

Click here to read the full review

“The clear highlight was Paul’s Case by Gregory Spears…”

“Jonathan Blalock made an ideal Paul, dreamy, smirking and vulnerable…”

“Robert Wood (the general director of UrbanArias from Washington, DC, which first produced the opera) conducted the pianist Keith Chambers and eight players from the American Modern Ensemble…and the music made the show.”

– John Rockwell, OPERA Magazine

Click here to read the full review

She, After

“Emily Pulley is the soprano in this production and, in its opening on Saturday, she nailed it, navigating the angular recitative with an ease that sounded like intense conversational inflection and, in that small intimate space, communicating powerfully with the audience.”

– Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post

Click here to read the full review

“UrbanArias has created the antidote for the traditional opera – engaging, intimate, daring, and maybe above all, short.”

– Justin Schneider, DCMetroTheatreArts.com

Click here to read the full review

“Soprano Emily Pulley performs both roles with incredible diction and conviction, displaying unarguable musical intelligence and instinct . . . With the assistance of the refreshing, hip, compelling, and unpredictable troupe at UrbanArias, [composer Daniel Felsenfeld] may just pull opera out of its rut. ‘If you want a quickie, we’re your opera company.’ I’m sold.”

– Rebecca Evans, DCTheatreScene.com

Click here to read the full review

 

Paul’s Case

“In “Paul’s Case,” given its world premiere on Saturday by the small company UrbanArias, the composer Gregory Spears combines minimalism, baroque gestures, and extended vocal techniques into a distinctive and pungent musical language . . . Unlike many contemporary opera composers, Mr. Spears has a gift for writing ensembles, and they are original . . . the pacing is taut, the nine-piece orchestration vivid and the denouement appropriately wrenching.”

– Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

Click here to read the full review

” . . . an arresting little piece that communicates its haunting story with clarity and a sense of inevitability . . . There’s a rich group of voices assembled for the intimate performance, led by rising tenor Jonathan Blalock, who is youthful enough to be credible as an incorrigible high schooler whose red carnation clashes so much with his dour, monochromatic surroundings.”

– Roger Catlin, The Washington Post

Read the entire review here

“I can’t shake the mysterious, disturbing, and yet powerful atmosphere that has been created in Paul’s Case, the latest production by UrbanArias . . . There is something rare and appreciable about hearing and seeing an opera in such an intimate space.”

– Susan Galbraith, DC Theatre Scene

Click here to read the full review

“The words ‘world premiere’ don’t always translate to ‘Must-See,’ but in the case of Paul’s Case, a post-minimalist, compact opera unveiled by UrbanArias at Artisphere, they’re synonymous.”

– Terry Byrne, DCMetroTheaterArts

For the full review, click here

“Hurry, while there are still a few performances of composer Gregory Spear’s new opera Paul’s Case scheduled in the outstanding world premiere production by UrbanArias at the Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia. Everything about this 90-minute chamber opera organized in two acts and five scenes works.”

– Karren Alenier, Scene 4 Magazine

Click here to read the full review

 

Photo-Op

“It’s wonderful fun, wonderfully directed and performed and, despite that fact that it was written in 1989, eerily timely.”

– Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post

Click here to read the full review!

Our production of Photo-Op was previewed in the Washington Post on September 7 –
“Audience members will frequently be reminded of real-life politicians, Wood says. ‘There are moments in the opera where you will perhaps remember Sarah Palin, you will perhaps remember the Clintons, you remember things that are coming from stories that we know, because these things happen,’ he says. ‘And they happen again and again.’ ”

Read the whole article, and more Palin-esque quotes from Bob Wood here.

WAMU’s Art Beat also did a piece on us – click here to read it.

Blind Dates

From our recent show at IOTA:

“This is some of the best, most original musicmaking I’ve heard inside the Beltway in a long time.”

– Patrick Rucker, The Washington Post

Read the whole review here.

We made the Huffington Post DC edition! “UrbanArias Brings Opera to IOTA”

Positions 1956 Coverage

The Washington Post did a huge article on UrbanArias and our recent festival: “Short, Sexy and Relevant Operas at UrbanArias”

MetroWeekly has run a short feature on Positions 1956: Muscle Opera

Positions 1956 mentioned in Playbill – click HERE

Reviews for Positions 1956, Before Breakfast and The Filthy Habit

“UrbanArias is a real gem. If opera ever approaches the popular art form it once was, we’ll have them to thank.”

– Mike Paarlberg, Washington City Paper

Click here for the full review.

2011 Reviews

 

Orpheus and Euridice

” . . . it’s as fine a way to spend an hour as you can find in the District today — and a good augury for a new presence on the local vocal scene.”

– Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

click here for the full review

Green Sneakers

” . . . baritone Ian Greenlaw ably brings the spirit of the missing partner into the room. His voice is rich with emotion, but his acting is what certainly convinced [the audience] of his prowess.”

– Karren Allenier, The Dressing

read the whole review here

Glory Denied

“Baritone Michael Chioldi, the older Jim, had the subtle role in which a small change in timbre and the raising of an eyebrow were all it took to differentiate rejection from resignation; in the intimacy of this performance space, such gestures spoke eloquently. Tenor Kevin Vortmann was compelling and enormously powerful as the young, imprisoned Jim. As the idealized pregnant Alyce of Jim’s imagination, Colleen Daly had the most lyrical assignment and carried it out glowingly. Caroline Worra, tasked with straddling the line between selfish self-preservation and brutal reality, did so magnificently.”

– Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post

click here for the full review

“Glory Denied happens to be a work of our time; of special meaning to where we live . . .  It engages its audience in tonal melodies, intellectual substance, emotional drama, and a concise narrative arc.  It holds its own against the greatest of the classical repertoire, while helping to redefine it at the rarer scale of chamber opera.”

– Paul Moon, DCArtsBeat

for the full review, click here

Other Articles about UrbanArias

MetroWeekly’s Spotlight chose UrbanArias as a “Hot Pick

Also in MetroWeekly, an article about Ricky Ian Gordon’s short pieces

DC Theatre Scene’s article about Ricky Ian Gordon is here