New York Opera Festival 2019: New Amsterdam Opera Performs Massenet’s Rare ‘Hérodiade’

By David Salazar

The New York Opera Fest 2019 kicked off on Monday, April 29 and for the next several weeks, New Yorkers will get ample opportunity to enjoy opera in a variety of unique ways. As has been OperaWire’s tradition over the years, we have reached out to a number of the companies participating in the festival and have asked them a series of questions that will allow our readers to get to know them a bit.

Every year, the New Amsterdam Opera, led by music director Keith Chambers, showcases unique and rare operas from he repertory in concert form. In the past the company has performed “La Forza del Destino” and “La Favorite,” both operas by renowned composers that had not been showcased in New York for a number of decades. The company’s projects center on a constant re-evaluation of classic repertory, allowing audiences an opportunity to experience some of the greatest music that they never knew they needed to hear. Moreover, the casts assembled for these performances feature young talent that is on the verge of a major international breakthrough.

For this year’s edition, The New Amsterdam Opera will present Massenet’s “Hérodiade,” a retelling of the Salome and John the Baptist story from a unique perspective. The performance is set for May 10, 2019.

Tell us why you’re excited to participate in this year’s New York Opera Festival. 

NAO is excited to again be part of this festival that celebrates the fabulous art form of opera in its many forms. It’s two months of all things opera with performances throughout New York City – what could be better!

What themes and/or issues are addressed in your production, and how are they relevant to your company and its mission?

 Part of New Amsterdam Opera’s mission is to present the under-performed operas of great composers. We believe that there are operas and voices that deserve to be heard and presented to New York City audiences. This is the reason that we selected Hérodiade by Jules Massenet. Artistic Director Keith Chambers will conduct the New Amsterdam Opera Orchestra and Chorus, and a vibrant, youthful cast that includes Janara Kellerman (Hérodiade), Marcy Stonikas (Salomé), Jason Duika (Hérode), Errin Brooks (Jean), Isaiah Musik-Ayala (Phanuel), Charles Eaton (Vitellius), and Brooklyn Snow (Jeune Babylonienne).

What is something special or unique about your production that NYC audiences can look forward to?

 NAO’s One-Night-Only production will be a rare treat for NYC audiences to hear a live performance of “Hérodiade.” This opera has not been performed professionally in NYC in over 24 years and it has never been performed by The Metropolitan Opera.

The NYC premiere of “Hérodiade” actually took place in 1909 at the Manhattan Opera House, which was founded by Oscar Hammerstein and was a rival to The Met In this opera, Massenet presents a fascinating, more sensual version of the story of Salome and John the Baptist than the Strauss version with which more people are familiar. Massenet did not, however, neglect the elements of erotic obsession, political rivalry, and all-consuming vengeance that form the basis of this ancient tale. Our audience will hear the arias from Hérodiade that are concert and recital favorites, including “Il est doux, il est bon” and “Vision fugitive,” in the context of the opera, not just as excerpts. 

What role do you think “indie opera” plays in a city like NYC and for the future of the art form as a whole?

Indie opera offer fabulous opportunities for NYC audiences. These companies present a wide variety of options in the works that they produce, the artists that they feature, and the venues in which they perform. The upcoming NY Opera Fest is a great illustration of this diversity. Audiences will have many choices – from rarely performed classics to premieres of new works, from fully staged works to operas performed in concert, and from works performed in traditional theater settings to site-specific operas produced in unique locations. Indie opera is evidence that opera is still a vibrant, relevant art form with a bright future.