Gozzi's Green Bird
written for but not printed by AUFBAU, Mar. 11, 1996 Copyright by Leonard Lehrman
New York City's oldest active theater, originally built as the "Theatre Republic" by Oscar Hammerstein in 1900, re-opened with a circus last December as The New Victory Theater, the city's "first yearround professional theater programmed for youth." Limited engagements of an African dance piece and a sports opera followed. The current work, running through March 24, is a rendering that can only be called fantastical of an 18th-century Italian classic, Carlo Gozzi's The Green Bird, translated by Albert Bermel & Ted Emery, directed with masks and puppets by Guggenheim and MacArthur Award-wining Julie Taymor, with original multi-period music by the very gifted Elliot Goldenthal, presented by Theatre for a New Audience.
Combining distinct elements of rap, medieval chant, Cagean chance and Stravinskian/Bernsteinian rhythms, the music is as fascinating as the ever-changing styles of the acting, which span continents and centuries.
A quickly outdated reference to the New York Republican primary notwithstanding, the mix is generally delightful, as statues demand a nose fix and - seminude - come to life; men become statues, leading to raunchy female speculation on how hard they are; a queen is rescued from being buried among toilets; apples open up and sing; waters (the amazing Erico Villanueva) dance; and the title character is transformed into a handsome prince.
If this were Shakespeare, as three of Goldenthal's last four
creations with this company have been, the reception would no doubt
have been positive and understanding. But since the work is largely
unknown to English speakers - even though the author is not: think of
Turandot and Love for Three Oranges - some critics seem to be less
than eager to embrace the unfamiliar. Go see it; get there early; read
the program notes, and make your own judgment!
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