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Oratorio for Living Things Is Transcendent

Oratorio for Living Things Is Transcendent

Photograph by Ben Arons

I was late to the party in seeing Heather Christian’s Oratorio for Living Things. First it fell off my radar and then COVID derailed my theatre going, but finally I was able to experience this spiritually glorious, uplifting concert by Heather Christian, an Ars Nova production at the Greenwich House Theatre, with some of the best voices and musicians in the world blending together baroque, blues, gospel, jazz and pop. literally enveloping the audience in sound. The effect is like a pulsating womb of rebirth. These voices and musicians include: Johnny Butler, Kirstyn Cae Ballard, Jane Cardona, Sean Donovan, Carla Duren, Clérida Eltimé, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Brian Flores, Odetta Hartman, Quentin Oliver Lee, Angel Lozada, Divya Maus, Barrie Lobo McLain, Ben Moss, John Murchison, Onyie Nwachukwu, Dito van Reigersberg, and Peter Wise.

When entering you are given a libretto, some of it in Latin, but put it away until the end. This is a piece to be experienced and taken in. I would love to see this over and over again or have the CD, as so much is being said both lyrically and in sound.

Photograph by Ben Arons

The score soars with intricate harmonies. Think Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, The Juliet Letters by Elvis Costello, the Brodsky Quartet, a little Tori Amos, with strains of The Beatles and Queen. Musically, this show borders on genius. It’s dedicated to three Carls – the cosmologist Carl Sagan, Carl Orff, the German composer of the 1930’s cantata Carmina Burana, based on 11th century poems in Latin, and Italian physicist Carlo Rovell, author of “The Order of Time.”

Brilliantly directed by Lee Sunday Evans, the cast is dressed in rather cool street clothes by costume designer Márion Talán de la Rosa. The shades of blue with a red boot or broach, a green shoe are added for a pop of color. Kristen Robinson’s set has transformed Greenwich House into arena seating, much like the show Cock. The performers are all over, creating a surround sound of intimacy and togetherness.

At the heart of Oratorio for Living Things is a transcendental meditation on hope, life and the human spirit.

I want to thank the wonderful house manager who switched my seat due to the fact I have vertigo and the multiple composers who told me I needed to see this. You were right. Unfortunately,  the show is sold out; however, there is a standby line, but beware as this cast had COVID.

Oratorio for Living Things: Ars Nova at Greenwich House Theater, 27 Barrow Street through May 22nd.

 

Music

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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