LoftOpera, 2017


LoftOpera has created a moving Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. The inborn pain of women is the subject. Instead of using the words of the 13th century poem in which the Virgin Mary stands at the foot of her son, hanged high on the cross, the director John de los Santos has lodged his hymn in the actual story of Antonin Dvorák, who based his own setting of the Stabat Mater poem on his own loss of children.

Selections from the Vivaldi’s Sionfonia al Santa Selpulcrho began the program. Soprano Heather Buck and counter tenor Randall Scotting were clothed in black on a darkened stage. Their facial expressions were projected in front of us. Buck as Mary expresses a mother’s anguish. Scotting as her husband looks both confused and angry.

De los Santos imagines that the Virgin Mary is mourning not only the death of her ‘son of God’ but also deaths of four of her children. Dancers as the children are garbed in the sleek black armour of mourning covered with flowing blood red chiffon.

What is fascinating about the director’s choices in LoftOpera’s production is that they do not at all interfere with Pergolesi’s beautiful music. Instead the singers and dancers move with the music on runways built like a fashion show. There are four ramps and they sprawl out from the central scaffolding which suggests the cross. The audience is wedged between the runways, often looking up at the singers and dancers, who loom over us, very close and very tall. We always see the cross and feel its pain.