Just because the chocolate has been eaten, the champagne has been drunk, and the tin foil hearts have been disposed doesn’t mean that the mess of Valentine’s Day doesn’t linger. The East Passyunk Opera Project (also known as ePOP) understands that love and romance can be fulfilling or tragic — or both, simultaneously — and have planned their return to stages, virtual and real, this week, around the other side of love—the break ups, the fights. To that, ePOP has teamed with two local South Philly business-on-the-block, Society Hill Dance Academy and Manatawny Still Works to present ‘Love Notes 2.0: Sour Note’ for several nights of opera, art song, and musical theater.
While ePOP’s ‘Love Notes 2.0 Sour Notes’ virtual concert is currently running through Feb. 24—courtesy private YouTube links—ePOP’s live events take place on Feb. 19 at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at Society Hill Dance Academy’s The Loft on Passyunk.
“Opera allows you to express emotions on stage that would normally leave you speechless in real life,” says soprano Ashley Marie Robillard. “Ever since I got that first taste at age 8 – Carmen at the Met – there was no looking back.” Mezzo-soprano Maren Montalbano, another of EPOP’s vocalists, got her start at age 9 on stage in San Francisco, caught up in a whirlwind of “over the top emotionalism.”
‘Love Notes 2.0: Sour Notes’, put together by soprano opera vocalist/ePOP General and Artistic Director Katrina Thurman, first and foremost, is geared toward acquainting the public with the East Passyunk block’s businesses, as well as making opera and classically-inspired art song approachable and un-stuffy.
“ePOP got going last year, with Love Notes, as an all-virtual event because, you know: pandemic,” says Thurman. “Back this year, and feeling a little more confident with vaccines, boosters and masks, we’re going live on one date, while still holding onto the virtual aspect for our friends from places such as The Metropolitan Opera in New York who wish to join us.”
An esteemed list of internationally renowned opera vocalists such as Anthony Roth Costanzo, Sandra Piques Eddy, Joélle Harvey and John Riesen will join in on ‘Love Notes 2.0’ fun, as will Philadelphia mezzo-soprano Montalbano, who will offer selections from her one-woman, one-time Fringe Fest show from 2020, ‘The Bodice Ripper Project.’
“Planned as it was for the stage until the pandemic, I turned it into an online show based on my series of very silly, operatic romance novels that I have written,” says Montalbano of written works such as Pandemic Passion. “I took those broad themes and set them to music. If you were to read a romance novel, and flip to the raunchy bits – that’s what I’ll be doing for ‘Love Notes: Sour Note.’”
Ashley Marie Robillard states that she has given herself “permission to move” slightly way from opera, per se, in her performance of songs from diabolical German composer Kurt Weill and a love letter to the late Stephen Sondheim.
“That means a little bit of Follies, Company, and Women in Distress – Sondheim writes such bold women’s characters and what better than that for an evening of ‘Sour Notes’,” says Robillard. “I’m really emphasizing the more tortured aspect of song, the heartbreak.”
ePOP boss Thurman will focus on songs from Gian Carlo Menotti’s ‘Old Maid’ and the ‘Thief’ (Laetitia’s driven-by-desire aria), from Chris Miller and Nathan Tyson’s ‘Spring Cleaning’, and from musical theater composer Maury Yeston’s ‘Nine.’
“The whole point of having it be a Sour Note, is that we’re looking at the flip side of things, of love,” says Thurman. “How Meren’s project is racy, and how Ashley Marie is focused on heartbreak, and how my songs are about desire, breakups and I-hate-your-face-now emotion.”
Tickets and info can be found at www.epopphilly.org.