in performance: Rhymes With Opera presents “Criminal Element”

Megan Ihnen reviewed the Baltimore performance of the newly-staged version of David Smooke’s Criminal Element

The Sybaritic Singer

Settling into David Smooke‘s nonopera, “Criminal Element“, is akin to letting a book of Rorschach paintings fall open in front of you. As each of the five scenes unfolds, the pages of that book flip in the breeze. That is to say, a nonopera in an invented language can take on myriad meanings and plays out the perceptions of those watching and listening. Gazing around the sultry Area 405 in Baltimore on Saturday night, there could have been as many interpretations of Smooke’s work as there were people crowded into the performance space. Rhymes With Opera singers Elisabeth Halliday, Robert Maril, and Bonnie Lander with the SONAR new music ensemble quartet under George Lam‘s conducting excelled in the performance of this work creating numerous audience entry points to a work that could be intimidating to some. Rhymes With Opera also used the evening as…

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A Night of Chamber Performances in New York With & Without Puppets (Double Review)

Rhymes With Opera (L to R: Robert Maril, Elisabeth Halliday and Bonnie Lander) performing David Smooke’s Criminal Element at JACK Space in Brooklyn, July 11th, 2013–Photo courtesy of Regina DeLuisecriminalelement2

Rhymes With Opera
Criminal Element
An opera by David Smooke
Also featuring 12 one-minute operas by various composers
JACK, Brooklyn, NY
Thursday, July 11th, 2013

criminalelementA small but full and dedicated sold-out audience filed into JACK Space in Brooklyn last night to witness the first performance of the fully-staged version of Criminal Element, a one-act chamber opera commissioned by Rhymes With Opera from Baltimore-based composer David Smooke originally in 2010, when it was being performed as a concert-only work in selected cities. Continue reading

Criminal Element ~ Preview of David Smooke’s Puppet Opera


Rhymes With Opera, an ensemble dedicated to commissioning and producing new operas in Baltimore and New York City, brings their first-ever revival to Brooklyn’s JACK Space on July 11, 2013 at 7:30pm, and Baltimore’s Station North Area 405 on July 13, 2013 at 8pm. This production includes a fully staged performance of David Smooke’s Criminal Element, a work that RWO commissioned from Smooke in 2010, and is scored for three singers and a string quartet.

Composer David Smooke calls Criminal Element a “non-opera” that was inspired by the story of outlaw French bank trader Jérôme Kerviel and his British counterpart Nicholas Leeson, told through a language invented by Smooke. Baltimore Sun critic Tim Smith described the 2011 concert version as “a highly creative, absorbing experience.” This new, fully staged production will exponentially increase the creativity quotient, incorporating the talents of several Baltimore artists. MICA faculty member Valeska Populoh is designing and co-directing the production, and is creating massive puppets that will tower over the singers as an integral scenic element throughout the work. Margaret Rorison of the Red Room Collective (video design) and David Crandall (lighting design and technical director) will join Populoh and Smooke on the production team. Rhymes With Opera’s trio of singers will be accompanied by a string quartet from Baltimore’s SONAR New Music Ensemble.

In addition to Criminal Element, RWO will premiere twelve one-minute “signature” operas by Judah Adashi, Jenny Beck, Sidney Boquiren, Joshua Bornfield, Nomi Epstein, Alexandra Gardner, Tim Hansen, Andrew Histand, Mark Lackey, Anna Meadors, Rachel Peters, and Ashley Wang. These brand-new operas were commissioned especially for this performance.
Click here for tickets/info or on the link at the bottom of this page.

David had a few minutes to speak about newly-staged puppet opera. Continue reading

American Contemporary Music Ensemble: A Night of New Classical at Joe’s Pub

Sequenza21 and Manhattan New Music Project present ACME in Concert
Joe’s Pub, NYC
October 25, 2011

Other than my highly-expensive coke and chocolate brownie (Thanks, Joe’s Pub food policy), the evening for the chamber group American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) left me feeling much more assured and happy I was there to capture it. It was quite a crisp, vital program in the intimate setting of Joe’s Pub, a place that one associates more with indie rock, but these days there’s hardly a chasm between the two anyway. Continue reading