Anthony Roth Costanzo •Glass - Händel • St. John the Divine • November 26 2018

I went to this production feeling a bit apprehensive – open mind, critical eyes.  The program read like a who’s who from the world of fashion, dance, music, art and film with that NYC glamour pedigree, and I felt vary of the conceptual, immersive multi-media approach, something that I usually do not care for.  

            I had a standing room ticket and placed myself close to the central of three stages, hoping that Anthony would perform on it. There was a highly stylized entrance of the “people movers”, like an army of Calvin Klein-clad pages, very effective and impressive. At first, I thought that they were a choir. But what they eventually ended up doing (moving the audience with handcarts that scooped up the chairs, one by one) seemed to me unnecessary and distracting from the real action – Anthony’s performance. Granted, I was not among those being moved, and friends who. Had sat in the audience later told me that experience had been fun. I still question the idea of taking someone out of what in fact could organically be full immersion(by paying attention to what is happening onstage) only to be replaced somewhere else for re-immersion. High concept, perhaps amusing, but how does this serve the perception of the performance? Why break the spell? I was not won over by the choreography by NYCB’s Justin Peck – ballet dancers in long sequined fringe skirts doing emoting developés and earnest arabesques on the small square stage that would have called for something much more minimal, stylized, poised.  I had hoped to see a live version of Ron Myles’ choreography that had been used in one of the videos produced to market the CD, ARC. The videos were projected at the other end of the central stage, but I paid no attention to them, I was here to see a live performance, not a movie. I loved the “live” painting by George Condo, creating a Picasso-esque carnival of faces on a lit screen behind the central stage. But the main event was of course Anthony. What a powerful, commanding stage presence he has. Confident, glorious voice with a very high range (I think of him as a male soprano rather than a countertenor), highly convincing intensity and an uncanny way of sustaining each carefully executed, purpose-full dramatic gesture, possibly adapted from the stylized production of Akhnaten he has starred in in SF. He is, of all the countertenors I have seen, the most reckless and fearless one, unabashed yet in total control, without shame, basking in the otherworldliness and flamboyance of it all. I doubt this would be possible for a straight (or closeted) man. The entire production reminiscent of the fashion show in Fellini’s Roma, Anthony clad in gloriously flamboyant pouf dresses designed by Raf Simons, wearing very high heals. Anthony, who co-produced the event, is clearly a smart, connected and ambitious performer who knows how to make things happen. Bravo. An uncanny hero who is completely at home onstage and at ease with himself.