December 6, 2017
Creator and librettist Cerise Jacobs – whose Ouroboros Trilogy, produced in September of 2016, was “the most ambitious opera undertaking Boston has ever seen” (Berkshire Fine Arts) – premiered her new opera REV. 23 at Boston’s John Hancock Theater this past fall. The opera, composed by Trinity Church Wall Street Music Director Julian Wachner, was the centerpiece of the first Boston New Music Festival. Now Jacobs has been recognized as a “Mover and Shaper” by Musical America. Each year the magazine and performing arts directory releases a special report honoring 30 industry professionals – selected from nominations by colleagues and readers – as thought leaders and visionaries in the performing arts. Past honorees have included the likes of National Sawdust Executive Director Paola Prestini, opera impresario Beth Morrison, composers Missy Mazzoli and Ellen Reid, and Opera Philadelphia General Director David B. Devan.
The recent production of REV. 23 – directed by West Edge Opera’s Mark Streshinsky and conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya, recently named the new Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater – was a hit with critics and audiences alike. Conceived by Jacobs as a comic addition to the decidedly uncomic Book of Revelation, the opera elicited critical approval from La Scena Musicale: “The city of Boston recently got a privileged, early glimpse of the Apocalypse – and beyond – courtesy of resident visionary, opera-maker, and eschatologist nonpareil, Cerise Lim Jacobs,” whose “literary and imaginative feracities are prodigious.” Classical Voice North America praised Wachner’s “endlessly creative score,” and the Boston Globe likewise noted that “Wachner’s protean score deftly employs a grab-bag of 20th-century operatic and musical-theater styles to hold a mirror to the libretto.” Jacobs’s knack for conceiving operatic “happenings” was aptly captured by the New England Theater Geek: “This is easily the most yuppie punk show I’ve seen all year. Librettist Cerise Lim Jacobs and director Mark Streshinsky are not messing around with their work. REV. 23 is an opera firmly rooted in the 21st Century. Lidiya Yankovskaya’s vivacious conducting might as well have been head banging for all her hard work corralling Julian Wachner’s magnificent beast of a score. Add to the mix the tarted up Furies (Nora Graham-Smith, Melanie Long, Jamie-Rose Guarrine) flitting around Hell like deranged pixies at a bacchanal, and you’ve got one wild ride.” The Boston Musical Intelligencer left no doubt about the audience’s reaction: “An eccentric vision of a world before the Beginning, REV. 23 received an eager standing ovation from an ecstatic audience.”
The monumental undertaking that culminated in the 2016 premiere of the Ouroboros Trilogy was likewise received with widespread acclaim. As Opera magazine summed it up: “Cerise Lim Jacobs, the intrepid and artistically ambitious muscle behind the long-in-gestation Ouroboros trilogy, has much of which to be proud.” The Boston Musical Intelligencer proclaimed that “the cast of each opera … performed not just adeptly, but captivatingly. The visual display of the trilogy took advantage of modern digital technology to create awe-inspiring sets.” Special praise was reserved for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Madame White Snake by composer Zhou Long, which was proclaimed to be “excellent, a near perfect score.” As the South Shore Critic blog added: “The crowning moment was a (well deserved) standing ovation for Jacobs, whose obvious glowing elation with the reception of this audience was unforgettable. After decades of work on her trilogy, the palpable warmth from the opera-lovers present seemed to overwhelm her, as well it might. It was a magnificent night for opera.”
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© 21C Media Group, December 2017