‘Rose’ from the dead: New opera debuts beneath Green-Wood Cemetery

‘Rose’ from the dead: New opera debuts beneath Green-Wood Cemetery
Kevin Condon

Talk about underground music!

A haunting opera about murder, love, and a gender-fluid elf will have an extra-spooky premiere in the catacombs of Green-Wood Cemetery on June 6. The show’s composer said the narrow, morbid environment will make attendees feel like they are trapped by the story and the powerful vocals.

“I love the claustrophobia of the catacombs,” said David Hertzberg. “It will try to make you feel like you’re being buried alive, but in a cool way.”

Opera-goers will follow a candle-lit pathway through the graveyard to the subterranean tombs, and take seats along one wall of the catacomb’s long, narrow hallway, with the performance taking place all along the crypt-lined corridor.

“The Rose Elf” features a pair of star-crossed lovers who are figuratively torn apart when one of them is literally torn apart by a jealous rival. A flower-inhabiting fairy witnesses the horrific crime, talks the living lover through the tragedy, and learns empathy in the process. The gruesome story is based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale, and it involves a pseudo-incestuous love triangle, a decapitation, and body parts being exhumed.

Hertzberg, who has had previous work performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, said the catacombs will emphasize the opera’s dark qualities.

An elf-made man: Composer David Hertzberg wrote the chamber opera “The Rose Elf,” based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale.
Kevin Condon

“There’s so much natural resonance with the story there,” he said of the underground venue. “There’s an intense eroticism and volatility that will explode in this environment.”

The space below Green-Wood Cemetery has a slight echo, which prompted Hertzberg to adjust the percussion arrangement so it would not overpower the space. He said the intimate setting will make people feel closer to the story and the singers than they would at a regular opera house.

“Having these singers with powerful voices losing it feet away from you, it’s kind of a visceral power that is hard to often achieve in a normal concert hall setting,” said Hertzberg.

“The Rose Elf” kicks off a new concert series for Brooklyn’s biggest graveyard, titled “The Angel’s Share” which will bring an array of musical performances to the graveyard’s subterranean tombs. The series is named after the portion of whiskey that evaporates while aging in a barrel, and each show will start with a twilight whiskey tasting.

“The Rose Elf” at Green-Wood Cemetery (500 25th St. at Fifth Avenue in Greenwood Heights, (718) 768–7300, www.green-wood.com). June 6, 8, and 10 at 7:30 pm. $80.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
High notes down deep: Soprano Samantha Hankey will play a leading role in the underground production.
Kevin Condon