Sexy & Romantic: “Venus & Adonis”

Presented by Cambridge Chamber Ensemble
Music by John Blow
Libretto by Anne Kingsmill Finch or Aphra Behn
From Ovid’s Metamorphosis 
Stage direction by David R. Gammons 
Music direction by Stephanie Beatrice
Choreography by Alissa Cardone
Supratitles by Danielle Shevchenko 
Concert-master, Ming-hang Tam

June 17, 18, 19, 2022
Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center
41 2nd Street
East Cambridge, MA

Review by Kitty Drexel

Apologies to the cast, orchestra, and crew of Venus & Adonis. Family issues (including a COVID scare) prevented me from publishing this review on time. Mea culpa. 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Cambridge Chamber Ensemble’s production of John Blow’s Venus & Adonis was delightful. It was under an hour and packed in more action in 60-minutes than other Baroque operas do in 150 minutes. If you missed it, that’s a damn shame. Donate here and catch the next one. 

Adonis & Venus is a romantic opera. Cambridge Chamber Ensemble’s production was sexy. It needed an intimacy director.

When I was wooing my brilliant wife in 2006, I was one of the Greek Ladies in Boston Opera Collaborative’s Iphigenie en Aulide. I sang in the ensemble when I wasn’t botching my dance choreography. My character had a crush on one of the soldiers. This soldier was played by a young tenor with little stage experience, no acting talent, and a sweet voice that split through the audience like a knife through melting butter. Our scene lasted approximately two minutes. It was long enough for the tenor to distort reality completely.  

This poor boy couldn’t tell the difference between pretend flirting in rehearsals and actual flirting from a potential paramour. My wife and I were engaged and joined at the hip at this time. Somehow, this tenor still thought he had a chance. He drunkenly pronounced his intention to date me in front of our castmates at the cast party by trapping me in a dining room, grasping the doorframe with both hands, and sloppily gyrating off-tempo to booming pop music. It was one of my worst and best cast party memories.

My experience, while laughable, could have become stupidly dangerous (it was already dangerously stupid). But, I was a company co-founder and board member; I was safe from backlash. Many women (and others across the gender spectrum) won’t complain when harassed because they’d rather be harassed than be ostracized from the biz. Intimacy directors exist to keep rehearsals and performances professional. Keep the Sexy on the stage for the audience. Protect your cast. Please hire an intimacy director.        

Intimacy direction educators suggest each production have a dedicated intimacy director; the individual should only be an intimacy director and fulfill no other leadership role in a given production. This enables the actors to develop trust in the intimacy director, prevents miscommunication between individuals, and ensures transparency between other leaders in the production. 

The vocalists and orchestra led by Stephanie Beatrice sounded beautiful. Beatrice was a force of nature with a baton. The dancers (Cici Kai, Tricia Dietrick, Alexis Tsiramanes) choreographed by Alissa Cardone were lithe and strong. 

This production staged the vocalists with the dancers. The dancers did not sing, but the singers performed simple choreography with the dancers. They found a good balance. 

The biggest difference between the dancers and the vocalists was their presence. The dancers’ energy shot through their fingers and hit the high ceiling and back of Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center past the audience. Everyone sounded glorious! But, the ensemble and soloists’ energy stopped just in front of their faces. Soloists’ acting stopped and started with their singing; they were stronger between consistently gorgeous-sounding solos. 

Venus & Adonis was fun. It sounded lovely, the dancing was charming, and the staging creatively explored the entire performance space. We had a lovely time on Saturday evening and look forward to future performances.  

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