Thursday, April 25

Gay Men’s Chorus of L.A. dresses opera up in drag

Outstanding vocal, dancing talents help blend traditional tunes with satire

  Photos from Integrated Production GMCLA

“Diva’s revenge: Opera Our Way II” brings a
night filled with surprises.

By Siddarth Puri

Daily Bruin Reporter

Girlfriend, it’s time to take opera to a new level “¦
the gay level. Move over Andrea Bocelli, make room for the new
voice in “modern” opera, the Gay Men’s Chorus of
Los Angeles.

“Divas’ revenge: Opera Our Way II,” a saucy
rendition of numerous operas, transports the audience to a world
filled with shrieking banshees, gay lumberjacks and, of course, men
in the most gorgeous drag since RuPaul.

A night filled with energetic opera interpretations as well as
some slower, calmer, more “traditional” operas, the
performance definitely makes for an entertaining night.

The performance starts off with the quintessential “Come
Boys, Let’s All Be Gay” from the 1924 operetta
“Student Prince.” In this all-out beginning, the chorus
shows what they’re all about. With a range that includes all
octaves (and surprisingly in harmony) that is then combined with
quick snaps and hand gestures, the men bring to life the sentiment
and theme of the opera.

This chorus, composed of about 160 talented male voices, sings
in tune and perfect harmony. They touch upon both the
“traditional” operas while also performing more recent
and modern operas with the addition, of course, of their own
special pizzazz.

The performances aren’t just men wailing in drag and
frolicking around. During the more “traditional” operas
the men act completely composed. In the touching “Day
Chorus” from the 1991 opera “The Death Of
Klinghoffer,” while the men sing their solemn tale, the
spotlight is on a dancer. Moving fluidly with extreme precision,
the dancer acts out the opera and creates a poignant scene for the

Some of the “traditional” operas, however, are more
exciting if audiences watch the “sign language
translator” instead of listening to the chorus.
“Good-Bye,” “Quinn Fine” and “Candles
in the Wind,” from the opera “The Dreamers,” are
all great bedtime music. The annoyingly soft melody of this opera
puts the audience to sleep immediately. Not only does it go on
forever, but the sopranos also need to be silenced “¦ would
gagging work?

The performance does, however, have many redeeming qualities.
During the “Lumberjacks’ Chorus” from “Paul
Bunyan,” men sing about the life of a gay lumberjack. Also
refreshing was the “Anvil Chorus” from 1853′s
“Il Trovatore.” As shirtless guys hit an anvil with
hard, long objects, the night definitely started to look up.

The high point of the performance was “Once more
Gondolieri” and “Then One of us Will be a Queen”
from “The Gondoliers.” Here, in a comedy about
transcending class boundaries, Venetian gondoliers dream about
becoming king (but would be much better as queens). In their
touching commentary on how they would act if they were
“king,” the gondoliers dance with the current queen
(who turns out to be not so feminine) and passionately sing about
their dream to wear a tiara.

While their melodious song tells of their hopeful futures, the
gondoliers couple it with “ghetto snaps,” hip movements
and saucy dance moves.

While the majority of the performance is exhilarating and
entertaining, the presentation loses a little of its charm at the

The last opera piece, “Recitative-Prayer-Rage” from
Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” is performed in a new
style called opera electronica. Normally, newer styles
incorporating popular culture are intriguing. This one, however,
lacks any real redeeming qualities. With the “Queen of Hot
Topic” shrieking in her black vinyl dress and blue, glittery
hair extensions along with the trance music playing in the
background, the atmosphere was transformed into a pseudo-rave with
the exception of glow sticks.

Overall, however, “Divas’ revenge” was a
worthwhile evening filled with dramatic singing, intriguing
performances and a few drag queens sprinkled in. As they continue
their season, they will also be preparing for “Jerry’s
Boys!” to be performed in July at the Alex Theatre in
Glendale. Their passionate vocal abilities coupled with their
above-par dancing and snapping talents provide for a colorful,
rainbow-filled evening.

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