randall wong

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Reissued: excerpts from Cleofide

HASSE Cleofide: Highlights • William Christie, cond; Emma Kirkby (Cleofide); Agnès Mellon (Erissena); Randall K. Wong (Gandarte); Derek Lee Ragin (Poro); Dominique Visse (Alessandro); David Cordier (Timagene); Cappela Coloniensis (period instruments) • PHOENIX EDITION 178 (77:34)

This is a reissue of excerpts from the May 1986 complete recording of Hasse’s Cleofide issued on LPs by Capriccio (and later on four CDs, Capriccio 10193). I owned the original LPs and, although I was impressed by certain moments in the score that seemed to look forward to Haydn, overall I found the music more decorative and entertaining than truly inspired. This reduction, then, is particularly welcome as an introduction to a work that is more of a historical curiosity than a living opera worthy of revival.
At the time I purchased the set, only Kirkby, Mellon, and Visse were known quantities to me. William Christie was establishing himself in France, and the wonderful singing of the other countertenors—Wong, Ragin, and Cordier—was a revelation. Indeed, upon relistening to this recording I was as much if not more impressed with their singing, distinctly and individually colored and diverse in tonal variance, than I was with the women, much as I adore Kirkby and always will. Nowadays, we have a few countertenors who can produce work on this high of a level (particularly David Daniels, Andreas Scholl, and Philippe Jarousky), but for the most part the countertenor breed has declined into a sameness of hooty falsetto tone with no interpretive skill or variance.

Pride of place goes to Wong, who ironically gets one of the smaller parts in the opera. Considering its brevity, I was disappointed that Phoenix Edition did not include the short duet between Kirkby and Wong, which, for me, was one of the highlights of the set, but the inclusion of Wong’s aria, “Appena amor sen nace,” will undoubtedly stun and confuse modern listeners as much as it did me in 1987. Wong, like Russell Oberlin, does not sound like a countertenor. Oberlin sounded like a female mezzo-soprano. Wong sounds like a female soprano, so much so that I defy anyone not familiar with his voice to identify this aria in a blindfold test as being sung by a male. I wonder what became of him [HERE I AM, NOT QUITE DEAD YET- RW] His other recordings include music of Schütz (Helicon 1037), David Cope’s “Music Composed by Computer” (Centaur 2329), a superb album of Vivaldi cantatas (Helicon 1032), and Meredith Monk’s wordless opera Atlas (ECM 1491).
Ragin and Visse provide some of the most dramatically varied and musically interesting moments in the opera, particularly Visse’s splendid aria, “Cervo al bosco,” which features some incredibly adept valveless horn-playing by an unidentified musician, although the Kirkby/Mellon duet that concludes act I is also superb.
The booklet contains no texts, either in the original Italian or in translation, and like the other CDs in this series, no bios of any of the singers, but a full-page bio and photo of Nancy Horowitz, who took the cover photos for the series. Lynn René Bayley

Monday, September 08, 2008

Back to Flatland

The Chicago Humanities Festival is presenting two performances of Flatland on Nov 8, 2008 at 3pm and 7pm. Performing with me will be Dina Emerson, and mathematician John Benson will be joining us for a post performance chat.
The theme of this year's festival is "Thinking Big." Presenting a show about multiple spacial dimensions on toy box stages is one of those bits of illogic that make being an "artist" so worthwhile.
(And this will be the first time one of my shows will be presented off the west coast!)
www.chfestival.org or 312-494-9309 for more information

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

new friend

Yuri the cat, age 10 months

Monday, March 31, 2008

Waiting for Godzilla

WHO: Randall Wong & NOHspace CoPresents

WHAT: Waiting for Godzilla, A miniature opera in three parts. Premiere of the NEW FULL LENGTH VERSION!

WHERE: NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa Street, San Francisco 94110

WHEN: Friday May 2 thru Sunday May 11, Friday and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm.

TIX: $10-15 sliding scale

INFO:(415) 621-7978 www.theatreofyugen.org

Combining the mythically scaled with a Beckett-like absurdity, Waiting for Godzilla is an opera in the grand tradition, but performed on a toybox scale. The effect is as if one was watching (and listening) to a fantasy opera through the wrong end of a telescope.
Rather than an example of the cheesy kaiju (monster) movie genre, the original Gojira (1954) was a work of depth and gravity, a reflection of the horrors of the atomic bomb to a decimated post-war Japan. However, Godzilla’s rage and thirst for destruction are never explored.
Waiting for Godzilla is a “back story,” an imagining of the motivations behind the action. As an opera, the classic explanation (and for the lion’s share of the operatic genre) is thwarted love.
In the complete Godzilla canon there is only one possible object of affection: Mothra. Sometimes ally, more frequently foe, the protectoress of her people, she is the embodiment of light and counterpart to the kaiju’s darkness. But, as in most operas, a happy ending remains elusive.
Waiting for Godzilla is performed on miniature stages and screens by three singer/puppeteers, “virtual orchestra,” and live instruments. In a departure from marionettes or sock puppets, the show owes more to world of bunraku (in that the manipulators are always visible), or shadow theater. The various visual effects are drawn from “archaic” stagecraft of the Victorian theater.
Waiting for Godzilla was developed under the auspices of the Z Space Studio Theater, San Francisco. Funding was provided by the Zellerbach Family Foundation, Theatre Bay Area CA$H Grants, the American Composers Forum SUBITO grants, and James A. Aleveras.
Disclaimer: Waiting for Godzilla is a new musical theater work based on Godzilla as a cultural icon. The names Godzilla, Gojira, and Mothra are trademarked and copyrighted by Toho Co. Ltd. This work is not authorized by Toho Co. Ltd.; Randall Wong and NOHspace are not affiliates of Toho Co., Ltd.

Cecilia Englehart
Kevin Baum
Randall Wong

About NOHspace Presents & Theatre of Yugen
Theatre of Yugen, founded in 1978, is an experimental ensemble dedicated to the exploration of dramatic classics and the crafting of new works of world theater, stemming from a discipline of classical Japanese Noh drama and Kyogen comedy. Their venue, NOHspace, is also home to many Bay Area artists and performing groups. NOHspace Presents is a series produced by Theatre of Yugen that showcases emerging and established experimental and Asian-based performers, as well as visiting artists from Japan. For more information on Theatre of Yugen's current season and history, please visit www.theatreofyugen.org

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Japan: DisneySea

DisneySea- 4 BILLION dollars will buy you a lot of park!
Actually, I was pretty much floored by the technology involved. Better to spend money on parks than bombs.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


I'm lying in bed with bronchitis- what better time is there to go through photos from the most recent trip?
To the naked eye, Japan would seem to be a city very little different from any other western megacity; scratch below the surface and it's anything but.
Where else could you see Godzilla go shopping? I think he was looking at purses.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Fantod Pack

First published in the December 1966 issue of Esquire Magazine as "The Awful Vista of the Year: the Fantod Pack" (along with the equally bleak "Chthonian Christmas"). The Fantod Pack has long remained one of the most elusive of the Gorey canon. A limited and signed edition was published by Gotham Book Mart in 1995, predictably fetching collector's prices. The Fantod Pack has finally been made available to the general public by Pomegranate Publications.

What is the Fantod Pack? It's Edward Gorey's idiosyncratic take on tarot cards, but with a major difference: all possible fortunes foretold are dire. There are no happy endings and disaster lurks around every corner, or is hanging above your head, ready to crash down like a safe in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Sweet dreams...