Passion never lacks Lynn Nottageyear 2003 play “Intimate attire, ”Where loneliness, longing, and hope hover in every scene. In the latest long-term cooperation between Lincoln Center Theater and the Metropolitan Opera, those passions soar freely, revealing the musical heart of “Intimate Apparel” in the new opera adaptation of the story of a 35-year-old black seamstress grieving for love in 1905 in New York.
The tight structure of the play, with spare hand-to-hand shots and a focus on the lives of ordinary and overlooked people, makes it feel as natural as a casual chamber opera. It also hints at a future life among music companies looking for a small-scale, relatable work that contains the emotional grandeur for specialized vocalists. Here at the Lincoln Center premiere, prolific vocal talents filled the music Ricky Ian Gordon sang through not only with soaring notes but with heartfelt expression.
Leading them is the sensitive soul at the heart of it all, an enchanting Kearstin Piper Brown as Esther, who has lived in a motel in Lower Manhattan for the past 18 years, toiling alone on a sewing machine. , creating exquisite bras for women to wear in their boudoir. (These creations are brilliantly done by designer Catherine Zuber.) Esther’s client runs the game from an unhappy family woman in society, Mrs. Van Buren (Naomi Louisa O’ Connell), to Mayme (Krysty Swann), a prostitute with dreams of her own.
Despite the warnings of her sympathetic landlady (Adrienne Danrich, an unsympathetic mother), the illiterate Esther – with the writing help of Mrs. Van Buren and Mayme – begins correspondence with George Armstrong ( Justin Austin), a laborer working on the Panama Canal, which led to their painful final meeting, marriage, and conflict.
Nottage turned her play into a tight libretto. There is an elegant and poetic simplicity in the essential journey of the human heart as it navigates issues of race, gender, religion, and class.
Covering it all is Gordon’s superb music, which remains true to its scope – and backed by super-titles that help when words get lost in the musical stratosphere. While far from a true synthesizer mix, the track still manages to reference ragtime and other styles for the various characters played by a multi-voiced team, accompanied by Nathaniel LaNasa and Brent Funderburk on two pianos and conducted by Steven Osgood.
A vibrant Swann has some great moments, some of which sometimes drift toward the musical theater with ease. Austin is also a strong presence as the trouble-making Armstrong, and in this version the character has gained more depth in the song and plot. In this intimate setting, the little touches are everything and the director Bartlett Sher Brings clarity to these minimalist moments: a lapel brush, a surprised kiss, a satin stroke, a hesitation, silence, stillness.
What gives the work its sting as well as its edge is the tension created between the deep emotions of the characters’ inner lives and the formal limitations of the language and much more. of the period. Nowhere is there more moving than the relationship between Esther and Mr. Marks (Arnold Livingston Geiss), the Jewish cloth merchant. The two share an unspoken but palpable love, and these torn feelings are so intense that they escape throughout the work. When they do — like when Esther and Mayme declare they need to be self-aware when they sing “Nobody does it for us” — it is liberating.
Each act ends with large sepia-toned photographs of “unidentified black people, ca. 1905,” a reminder of an almost lost and unrecognized society. In “Intimate Outfits” Nottage and Gordon challenge Esther when she says, “My life is not worth words.” This new and glorious opera recaptures their stories, passion and humanity and their rightful place woven into the American tapestry.
https://variety.com/2022/legit/reviews/intimate-apparel-review-opera-lynn-nottage-1235167530/ ‘Intimate Costume’ Review: Lynn Nottage Adapts Her Play into an Opera