November 6, 2017
Music has always had the power to paint emotional landscapes- breaking through our hard exterior and reaching into the heart. Music and emotion were central to this evening at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival. Before Jessica Lang Dance took the stage, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, conducted by Speranza Scappucci, performed Mozart’s Divertimento in F major. Though this was not the portion of the evening dedicated to dance, the movement of Scappucci as she directed the small chamber group through the piece captured the feeling of the music. She embodied each note and phrase of the movements, concluding in an electric finale.
With palettes whetted for an emotional journey, it was the perfect time for the curtain to rise, revealing a large tree-trunk structure mid stage with a woman draped in a cloth standing alongside. It was a striking image that only dug deeper into the music of the titular opera, Stabat Mater. As a crowd of dancers began to fill the stage, two voice rang out from the crowd, Andriana Churchman singing Soprano and Anthony Roth Costanzo as Countertenor. Positioned on stage among the dances, the voices and music became integral to each movement. The earth-toned flowing costumes grounded the feelings as the vocalists sang of Mary watching her son on the cross.
The cloth that was draped on the first woman was seized by different dancers with reverence.Soaring and digging, the work settled into a solemn flow, inducing an gasp when the second huge tree trunk descended from the ceiling. Marjorie Bradley Kellogg's two set pieces , white and earthy, continued to change positions throughout the work, dividing the stage in new ways for the dancers and vocalists to interact with and at one point taking the sacred cloth.
The movement itself existed through a whole range- matching the music at every step. Solemn and controlled to joyous and staccato, it gave depth to each note sung. As the work built to the climax, the performance, costumes by Brandon McDonald became shades of blue under the ever-shifting lighting design by Mark McCullough, giving a lightness to match the feel of the movement and emotion. When the choruses of Amen rang out in the final section, the audience was so overcome that the applause spilled out as the best form of release.
Jessica Lang’s "Stabat Mater," used all possible connection points- music, dance, costume, set- to create a piece of work that demands to be felt, not simply watched.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller
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