St. Ann’s Warehouse will make a momentous return to full-capacity performances with Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Roth Costanzo’s Only an Octave Apart.
In Only an Octave Apart, the two legendary performers intermingle their unique vocal gifts around iconic works ranging from from Purcell’s 17th century aria “Dido’s Lament” to Dido’s early 2000s radio hit “White Flag.” Bond and Costanzo subvert distinctions between high and low, juxtaposing their vocal pitches, performance styles, repertoires, and degrees of camp—not to mention their physical heights.
These concerts, created with a dream team of collaborators including set designer Carlos Soto (Solange, Robert Wilson, Lucinda Childs), lighting designer John Torres (Taylor Mac, Robert Wilson, Hamlet directed by Yaël Farber), and sound designer David Schnirman (Lou Reed, David Byrne, Rufus Wainwright), nod to St. Ann’s roots at the intersection of music and theater and preview a future Decca Records US studio album produced by Bartlett.
Justin Vivian Bond has garnered an OBIE Award, a Bessie Award, a Tony Award nomination, and an Ethyl Eichelberger Award, and has been named “the greatest cabaret artist of [their] generation” by The New Yorker. The New York Times describes Anthony Roth Costanzo, GRAMMY Award nominee, Musical America’s 2019 Vocalist of the Year, and the exquisite star of Phillip Glass’ Akhnaten at the Metropolitan Opera, as a “vocally brilliant and dramatically fearless countertenor.” In Only an Octave Apart, they express their queer identities through unique interpretations of classical, pop, and hybrids of the two, making the gendered history of the music their plaything. Whether invoking mythology or nature, romance or radical compassion, Bond and Costanzo carve new pathways between opera and politically subversive cabaret—two art forms that, as Bond puts it, “have been kept alive for generations by queens”—and allow old works to reveal surprising new stories.
Explains Costanzo, “Opera may now be perceived as normative and elitist, but it has a wild lineage as both an interdisciplinary and popular, zeitgeist-driving form—not to mention one whose popularity was rooted in the sex-symbol status of castrated men. What I have always tried to do, and what I think this show can excel at, is to drop some breadcrumbs for people who are a gateway audience. If I had to boil my career down, the common thread for me is asking how to create points of access—and for me the breadth of the songs here allows a multiplicity of points of access. When you hear them, they can be a kind of reflection of your identity and the multitudes it includes.”
Says Bond, “Cabaret is really intimate and spontaneous and dangerous because you don’t know what’s going to happen, whereas opera at its best is very calculated. There are so many people onstage that every piece of the puzzle has to fit perfectly. So in our work together, Anthony and I get to bring elements of both of those things so it loosens up the opera part a bit and recontextualizes it and, for me, it gets me into a more formalized, practiced way of performing. I think it brings out the best, and something new, in both of us.”
Bond adds, “Every time we got together to work during the pandemic year felt like an affirmation of our belief in the possibility of the future. It was really positive, and while the record has plenty of moments that make you feel, overall it has a sense of joy and optimism, because we felt so happy when we were making it. I was enjoying every minute, and found comfort even in the emotional things. It’s a life-affirming project to me.”
St. Ann’s Warehouse Artistic Director Susan Feldman says, “What excited me immediately was the wraparound of these two rare and extraordinary vocal lines embodied by Viv and Anthony, two bountiful and deeply generous performers, under the musical direction of the gifted Thomas Bartlett. Add Zack Winokur as director and the divine Carlos Soto, John Torres, and David Schnirman as designers, and St. Ann’s Warehouse reawakens to the sounds of joy and music. I must be dreaming.”
This theatrical concert plays for ten performances, September 21-October 3. Tickets to attend Only an Octave Apart start at $35 and are on sale to St. Ann’s Warehouse Members now at stannswarehouse.org.
About St. Ann’s Warehouse
St. Ann’s Warehouse plays a vital role on the global cultural landscape as an American artistic home for international companies of distinction, American avant-garde masters and talented emerging artists ready to work on a grand scale. St. Ann’s signature flexible, open space allows artists to stretch, both literally and imaginatively, enabling them to approach work with unfettered creativity, knowing that the theater can be adapted in multiple configurations to suit their needs.