'Manhattan Diaries' Poignant and Rich

Monday, August 13, 2007

In a recital of show tunes celebrating New York, a quartet of Wolf Trap Opera Company singers gave an intensely emotional and entertaining performance on Saturday at the Barns at Wolf Trap.

From the start, Joshua Jeremiah impressed with an expressive, caramel-textured baritone and unflappable stage presence. The versatile performer convincingly portrayed a variety of characters. In "The Pennycandystore Beyond the El," he sang with youthful desire, and in "Washington Square," he walked hand in hand with tenor Jeremy Little to characterize lovers moving in together. But it was his hilarious singing and dancing in "The Sheik of Avenue B" that stole the show.

Sasha Cooke was Jeremiah's counterpart with her rich, voluminous mezzo-soprano. She sang "Recuerdo" with a sultry air and reveled in drama queen antics as a spurned Manhattan socialite in "Down in the Depths on the Ninetieth Floor." Playing the seductive cab driver to Jeremiah's sailor on shore leave in "Taxi Duet," she was mischievous and charming.

Soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird was playful and humorous, but her best moments arrived in poignant numbers, such as "What Shall We Remember?" During the second half of the aptly named "Manhattan Diaries" recital, which was as searingly personal as the first half was raucously funny, her lively, sinewy soprano had room to unfurl fully in "The Lordly Hudson." Likewise, Little's voice, with its lithe, sweet lyric tenor qualities, served him well in the nostalgic "New York Lights."

Artistic Director Steven Blier kept the evening progressing with sensitive piano accompaniment and insightful commentary.

-- Grace Jean

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