Baritone "trips" with Schubert

We were part of a very lucky audience at John Jay College last night where Trisha Brown Dance Company, Simon Keenlyside and Pedja Muzijevic opened with their production of Franz Schubert's magnificent "Winterreise" (winter journey).

There are five more performances, through the thirteenth of December, and I could not recomend it more highly.

Wonderful music of course, and both it and the dark melancholy of the texts seems more modern in the somber days of the third millennium than it might ever have before, but it comes with the perfect sympathy of Muzijevic's piano, with Brown's brilliant choreography, three very, very beautiful young dancers (Brandi Norton, Seth Parker and Lionel Popkin), Elizabeth Cannon's costumes-you'd-want-to-wear-if-you looked-so-good and Jennifer Tipton's lighting.

Igniting the whole and garnering the hearts of the audience is the strong, wonderful baritone who not incidently manages at once to look both studly and cute, boyish and stalwart, indeed ageless. Keenlyside more than holds his own with the dancers in his beautiful and controlled movements, and occasionally breaks out in breathtaking leaps and bounds all the while performing vocally in peak form for seventy minutes straight.

Is it necessary to stage or choreograph an evening of songs? Schubert himself didn't even think of them as an integral set, and there is no narrative unity, but they have often been presented in concert and recordings as a cycle, so while the answer is obviously no, I will say that I had never understood them so well as individual pieces or as a set until I heard and saw them performed as they were last evening.

By the way, we saw Keenlyside as the beautiful eponymous lead in Britten's "Billy Budd" in Vienna this fall. Yes, grand opera, lieder and he can dance too!

The "Winterreise" reviews won't appear for another day or so. In the interim, and in supplement, there is this interesting preview article from the NYTimes.

For more, see Keenlyside's biography and this review of a "Winterreise" in London absent the choreography.

For tickets [hurry, before the reviews hit the streets and the ether] see John Jay College.