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Lost in song: Opera ‘The Loser’ will play high above the stage

Lost in space: In “The Loser” premiering at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Sept. 7, Rod Gilfry will float over empty theater seats while the audience sits in the mezzanine.
for Brooklyn Paper
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This loser will be playing to empty seats!

A new one-man opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music will debut on Sept. 7 to a nearly empty theater — by design. “The Loser,” about a musician who realizes he will never be as good a pianist as his friend Glenn Gould, will only feature audience seating on the mezzanine. The balcony and orchestra will remain entirely empty, and its solo singer will perform while perched high above the stage, on the same level as the audience.

The show’s composer and librettist, David Lang, imagined the unconventional presentation as a way to convey the character’s loneliness and thwarted ambition, said one of the show’s producers.

“David Lang explained to us that the story is about unfilled artistic dreams, the ethereal beauty of music, isolation, and that he has a highly unusual way to stage it,” said Amy Cassello. “What David imagined was the singer floating in the space and singing directly to the audience in the mezzanine level so they both see and feel his anger and frustration.”

To create Lang’s vision, the creative team built two platforms above the orchestra seats of the Howard Gilman Opera House, each reaching mezzanine level. The first platform will hold the opera’s lone singer, baritone Rod Gilfry, while the other will have Conrad Tao playing the grand piano. The opera also requires a chamber orchestra, which will play from a spot unseen by the audience.

The combination of the staging and music will create a lively and exciting performance, said Cassello.

“The music, like much contemporary music, is amplified,” explained Cassello. “Add to it the excitement of a singer literally singing to you, and the sound is going to be so immediately visceral — like in your living room.”

The show will be intimate — only 567 seats can be sold to each performance, instead of the 2,100 usually available. But instead of worrying about tickets, the show’s producers said they are excited about the technical challenge and possibilities for the future.

“We have never done anything like this before,” said Cassello. “It will open up possibilities for artists to use our theaters in completely unexpected ways.”

“The Loser” at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. Sept. 7–10 at 7:30 pm, Sept. 11 at 3 pm. $35–$90.

Posted 12:00 am, September 1, 2016
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