This week in NYC

PHEW! 

Last week was my first full week of rehearsal for the Christmas Spectacular, and with 7 hrs a day of dancing and singing, I didn't think there would be time to do anything but refuel with entire pizzas, a la Michael Phelps, for the next day. Sure enough, opportunities to see performances arose and I took them despite my exhaustion as I am determined to have a little bit of life outside of Radio City this season. 

Performance number 1 last Monday was of a former Lyric Opera of Chicago colleague's fresh new music group. Branden James, a former tenor who competed on America's Got Talent, embarked on his own musical pursuits outside of the opera chorus, with his new partner, James Clark, Australian cellist. 

Stevko-Birdland-jazz

 

The duo performed at host Jim Caruso's open mic at the legendary jazz venue, Birdland. This was their NYC debut and it had been well over a year since I had seen Branden, so I was honored to be invited. 

Careful to stay hydrated, I met the $10 minimum with 2 humble Stella's and sat back to listen to brilliant vocal/cello arrangements accompanied by the in-house pianist, bassist and drummer. 

With another 7 hrs of dancing the next day, I needed to 'peace out' after their performance and get my rest. 

Only a couple days later, I received my next invitation from another Lyric Opera colleague to attend the premier of Paris! by hot NYC burlesque group, Company XIV. Having attended my first performance of theirs back in January, Nutcracker Rouge, I was overjoyed to be invited to the premier of a new production. 

After yet another day of non-stop Christmas movement, I did my best to arrange my hair as if to look like I hadn't been throwing it around all day (close, but no cigar)

Subwaying it down to Brooklyn to the groups new venue, having formerly been in residence in Greenwich village, I entered a church that now housed a converted performance space; and it was better than the last space in every possible way! 

Stevko-Paris-CompanyXIV

 

Company XIV director and choreographer, Austin McCormick, is one who truly understands engulfing his audience in a total-sensory experience. 

As I stepped up the wooden stairs and entered the house, I found myself on a balcony, face to face with my friend, in full costume, directly outside their makeshift dressing rooms, in full view of all in attendance. We greeted briefly and I sought out my 2nd row seat on the orchestra level; furnished with plush, shabby-chic Victorian chairs and love seats, the finishing touch that brought the beauty of production right into the asses of the patrons themselves!

Me in my plush, Victorian seat; 2nd row. Close enough to see all the body parts one could imagine. 

Me in my plush, Victorian seat; 2nd row. Close enough to see all the body parts one could imagine. 

A dancer prepares: I unexpectedly happened upon Paris! star, Jacob Karr, preparing for his opening night performance in the exposed dressing rooms. 

A dancer prepares: I unexpectedly happened upon Paris! star, Jacob Karr, preparing for his opening night performance in the exposed dressing rooms. 

After a waitress greeted me at my private parlor chair to take my drink order, the lights dimmed and my friend with a  fellow dancer took the stage (scantily clad) to introduce the evening in German, French and English. 

The evening unfolded with a half-man half-woman host/ess, narrating the acts where the performers arose from behind a fringe curtain to tell the Greek myth of Paris, who was given the responsibility of choosing the fairest Goddess who would receive his golden apple. Acts that followed included: dance numbers with cast members in revealing clothing, a sensual pole dancer who sang her own operatic accompaniment, and a countertenor (who coincidentally sung my favorite arias from Rinaldo

Sitting beside my cast member's other friend at intermission, which still included small entertaining acts of it's own, we reveled in stories of European travels and her experience under the tutelage of famed former New York City Ballet ballerina, Gelsey Kirkland. 

If you could see the detail of this curtain in person, you could really see what that French, high society woman was having a fit about! 

If you could see the detail of this curtain in person, you could really see what that French, high society woman was having a fit about! 

With two more drinks on the tab than I expected, I had to give my congratulations and swiftly head out the door to once again rest for my next day of rigorous Christmas Spectacular rehearsal. Company XIV's Paris! made me eager to once again see their Nutcracker Rouge this holiday season; as if I wasn't already knees deep in holiday festivities! Catch me this Sunday at the famed Richard Tucker Gala at Carnegie Hall. One of NYC's finest opera award ceremonies, where I'm honored to attend as a guest of Jamie Barton, world-renowned mezzo-soprano. 

Cast member and former colleague, Nicole von Arx, after the show in traditional  Company XIV  dress: pasties and heels. 

Cast member and former colleague, Nicole von Arx, after the show in traditional Company XIV dress: pasties and heels.