Barry Bassis
Arts & Culture

Barry Bassis

Barry has been a music, theater and travel writer for over a decade for various publications, including Epoch Times. He is a voting member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle, two organizations of theater critics that give awards at the end of each season. He has also been a member of NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association)




Latest by Barry Bassis

  • Judi Silvano Sings Her Own Songs on “My Dance”

    Silvano sings her own tunes with Mike Abene on piano

    Judi Silvano is a singer whose work I have enjoyed for many years. Her 11th album as a leader, “My Dance” (on JSL Records) confirms that her vocal powers are intact and her imagination as free as ever. She is one of those singers who can animate an old pop song or even cross over into classical music. But, she has always been an adventurous improviser and remains one on her new CD.

    Silvano wrote all of the compositions, four have lyrics (which she also penned) and the others are wordless.

    “My Dance” is a duo album. All the piano work is by Mike Abene. He has a two-handed style and it would be wrong to consider him an accompanist. …


  • Everyone Loves Elena in “La Donna del Lago”

    Joyce DiDonato as Elena in  "La Donna del Lago" (photo by Ken Howard)

    Hardly anyone reads Sir Walter Scott’s novels and poems anymore, but he inspired many movies (e.g., “Ivanhoe” and “Quentin Durward” in the 1950’s) and musical works, notably Donizetti’s “Lucia de Lammermoor.” His narrative poem, “The Lady of the Lake,” was adapted into a bel canto opera by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) that was popular for a time, but sank into obscurity.

    Now, almost 200 years after its debut in Naples, “La donna del Lago” has been revived at the Metropolitan Opera. While the opera has some dull patches, it also features spectacular singing by perhaps the leading bel canto pair in opera today: mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and tenor Juan Diego Florez.

    Set in the Scottish highlands during the 16th century, the …


  • The Art of Elena Obraztsova

    Elena Obraztsova, The Fiery Mezzo-Soprano

    On Monday, January 12, 2015, the great Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Obraztsova died, at age 77, in a clinic in Germany. Coincidentally, the Melodiya label released a tribute album (distributed by Naxos) in its Stars of the Bolshoi Theatre series titled simply “Elena Obraztsova.”

    Obraztsova was born in Leningrad in 1939 and survived the siege of that city during World War II. Her father was sent to the front, while she remained with her mother.

    After she won several voice competitions, Obraztsova made her Bolshoi debut in 1963 as Marina in Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.” Although still a student, she created a sensation and the following year went on tours in Japan and Italy, where she sang at La Scala opera house. …


  • One is Blind and the Other Sees Too Much: The Heroines of “Iolanta” and “Bluebeard’s Castle” at the Met

    Tchaikovsky's opera makes its debut at the Met

    The Metropolitan Opera has a new production, pairing Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” with Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle.” A co-production with the Polish National Opera, directed by Mariusz Trelinski, the two pieces are linked visually and benefit from starring two of the most dynamic singers on the international scene, Anna Netrebko in the Tchaikovsky opera and Nadja Michael in the Bartok as well as Valery Gergiev leading the Met’s superb orchestra.

    “Iolanta” was first presented in St. Petersburg in 1892 as the opening piece on a double bill with “The Nutcracker.” The ballet has become a seasonal favorite but the opera is not well known outside of Russia. The new production marks its debut at the Met. This oversight is surprising since the opera …


  • Abdrazakov Earns a Standing Ovation at Carnegie Hall

    Russian bass brings the audience at Carnegie Hall to its feet

    Ildar Abdrazakov made his highly anticipated American solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall on January 29th. The Russian bass was accompanied on piano by Mzia Bakhtouridze. The charismatic singer showed off the many facets of his art—from producing a rich sound with a range of colors to conveying the meaning of each piece, from songs of love to the horrors of war.

    The first half of the concert was devoted to Russian music. Initially, when Abdrazakov became an international star, singing at La Scala and then at the Metropolitan Opera, he mostly concentrated on Italian bel canto operas. In recent years, he has included operas from his homeland, such as “Prince Igor” and “Khovanshchina,” though he opened the Met season …


  • Pergament’s ‘The Jewish Song': A Holocaust Memorial

    The cover of the recording of “The Jewish Song.” (Caprice Records)

    The reissue on CD of Moses Pergament’s “The Jewish Song” (“Den Judiska Sangen”) on Caprice brings to light a work that has musical and historical significance. It is a cry of pain in the aftermath of the Holocaust and is unfortunately still timely with the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, including the Scandinavian countries.

    Composed in 1944, near the end of World War II, the large-scale composition (for soloists, choir, and orchestra) is described by its composer in a statement contained in the liner notes as a “choral symphony.”

    Moses Pergament (1893–1977) was born to a Jewish family in Finland. At the time his Lithuanian father settled there, the country didn’t allow Jewish immigration. An exception was given for those who …


  • Pergament’s “The Jewish Song:” A Holocaust Memorial

    A Memorial to the Victims of the Holocaust

    The reissue on CD of Moses Pergament’s “The Jewish Song” (“Den Judiska Sang”) on Caprice brings to light a work that has musical and historical significance. Composed in 1944, near the end of World War II, the large-scale composition (for soloists, choir and orchestra) is described by its composer (in a statement contained in the liner notes) as a “choral symphony.” It is a cry of pain in the aftermath of the Holocaust and is unfortunately still timely with the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, including the Scandinavian countries.

    Moses Pergament (1893-1977) was born to a Jewish family in Finland. At the time his father (who came from Lithuania) settled there, the country didn’t allow Jewish immigration. An exception was given …


  • Opera Star Ildar Abdrazakov to Perform at Carnegie Hall

    The great Russian bass will give a recital at Carnegie Hall

    Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov’s international career took off after he won the Maria Callas International Television Competition in Italy during 2000. He made his debut in “La Sonambula” at La Scala the following year when he was only 25 years old and quickly established himself as one of the world’s leading basses.

    He is married to the outstanding Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina and they frequently perform together. They co-starred at the Metropolitan Opera in “Damnation of Faust” and “Khovanshchina.” The husband and wife won Grammy’s for “The Best Classical Album” and “The Best Choral Performance” for their recording of Verdi’s Requiem, conducted by Riccardo Muti. Mussorgsky’s “Khovanshchina” marked the first time Abdrazakov had appeared in a Russian opera outside his …


  • Recordings Prove Long-Standing Stature of London’s Royal Opera

    The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, home to The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, on March 29, 2012 in London, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

    The Royal Opera was formed, along with the Royal Ballet, after World War II. Performing in a theater in Covent Garden in London, the company has developed its own stars and brought in talent from around the world. Opus Arte (distributed by Naxos) has recently released a mammoth 32-CD box set titled “Great Performances,” containing 12 operas recorded between 1955 and 1997. All the performances were broadcast live by the BBC.

    The set is basically no-frills, with details about the recordings (dates and artists) and an introductory essay, “Golden Evenings at the Royal Opera House,” by Nicolas Payne, former director of the company.

    Here is a rundown of the operas, all of which are performed in the original language:

    CDs …


  • Four Decades of Live Recordings by the Royal Opera

    OA-CD9024-D ROH Great Performances clm v10_.

    The Royal Opera was formed, along with the Royal Ballet, after World War II. Performing in a theater in Covent Garden in London, the company has developed its own stars and brought in talents from around the world. Opus Arte (distributed by Naxos) has recently released a mammoth 32-CD box set titled, “Great Performances,” containing 12 operas recorded between 1955 and 1997. All the performances were broadcast live by the BBC.

    The set is basically no-frills, with details about the recordings (dates and artists) and an introductory essay, “Golden Evenings at the Royal Opera House,” by Nicolas Payne, former director of the company.

    Here is a rundown of the operas, all of which are performed in the original language:

    CDs …


  • Opera Review: The Merry Widow Waltzes Into the Met

    A scene from Lehár’s “The Merry Widow.” (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

    NEW YORK—Franz Lehár’s 1905 “The Merry Widow” (“Die Lustige Witwe”) is one of the most popular operettas, and the new production at the Metropolitan Opera shows why. Two Broadway veterans in their Met debuts are among the reasons for the success of the revival: director-choreographer Susan Stroman (of “The Producers,” “Contact,” and “Crazy for You”) and musical theater star Kelli O’Hara.

    Other notable talents on hand were Renée Fleming in the title role, Sir Thomas Allen as Baron Mirko Zeta, and Nathan Gunn as Count Danilo. The production was unveiled on New Year’s Eve, but I caught a later performance.

    The operetta takes place in Paris during 1900. Hanna Glawari (Renée Fleming) is a beautiful widow from Pontevedro (a fictional …


  • Theater Review: ‘Wiesenthal,’ Nazi Hunter Comes to Life on Stage

    Tom Dugan as Simon Wisenthal, a Nazi-camp survivor, who becomes a determined Nazi hunter after the war. (Carol Rosegg)

    NEW YORK—”Wiesenthal” is the one-man off-Broadway show about the Nazi hunter written by and starring Tom Dugan.

    The play takes place in Simon Wiesenthal’s office (the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, Austria) during April 2003. It is the last day before the 93-year-old retired—he died two years later—and he speaks to a group of visitors about his life and career.

    While the man who brought 1,100 Nazis to justice was certainly obsessive, Dugan’s script and his acting highlight his dry sense of humor. A frumpy nonagenarian, he pokes fun at the description of himself as a “Jewish James Bond,” pointing out that he drives an old Peugeot, not an Aston Martin. He does claim he has sex appeal.

    He goes …


  • “Wiesenthal,” the Nazi Hunter, Comes to Life on Stage

    Tom Dugan as Wiesenthal (photo by Carol Rosegg)

    “Wiesenthal” is the one-man off-Broadway show about the Nazi hunter written by and starring Tom Dugan.

    The play takes place in Wiesenthal’s office (the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, Austria) during April 2003. It is the last day before the 93-year old retired—he died two years later—and he speaks to a group of visitors about his life and career.

    While the man who brought 1,100 Nazis to justice, was certainly obsessive, Dugan’s script and his acting highlight his dry sense of humor. A frumpy nonagenarian, he pokes fun at the description of himself as a “Jewish James Bond,” pointing out that he drives an old Peugeot, not an Aston Martin. He does claim he has sex appeal. He goes on …


  • “Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression” –The Book and the Singles Set

    Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression

    When I started listening to jazz, I discovered that the one label I could trust was Blue Note Records. The music and even the covers were distinctive. While the label had a number of jazz hits, like “The Sidewinder” and “Song for my Father,” some of my favorite albums were those I picked off the discount rack by artists I hadn’t heard of, such as Andrew Hill, Sonny Clark and Sam Rivers (whose Soho loft I was later to frequent for avant garde jazz).

    Blue Note is celebrating its 75th anniversary and to commemorate the event, there is a 400-page hardcover book and 5-CD singles box set, both titled “Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression.”

    The book was written by jazz critic …


  • The Merry Widow Waltzes into the Met

    Renee Fleming and Nathan Gunn in "The Merry Widow" (photo by Ken Howard)

    Franz Lehar’s 1905 “The Merry Widow” (“Die Lustige Witwe”) is one of the most popular operettas and the new production at the Metropolitan Opera shows why. Two Broadway veterans in their Met debuts are among the reasons for the success of the revival: director-choreographer Susan Stroman (of “The Producers,” “Contact” and “Crazy for You”) and musical theater star Kelli O’Hara.

    Other notable talents on hand were Renée Fleming in the title role, Sir Thomas Allen as Baron Mirko Zeta and Nathan Gunn as Count Danilo. The production was unveiled on New Year’s eve but I caught a later performance.

    The operetta takes place in Paris during 1900. Hanna Glawari is a beautiful widow from Pontevedro (a fictional Eastern European country …


  • ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ Sailed Gracefully Into the New Year

    Cameron Smith as Ralph Rackstraw (played by Daniel Greenwood in the reviewed production) and a chorus of sailors in the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “H.M.S. Pinafore.” (William Reynolds)

    NEW YORK—I spent New Year’s Eve, as I often do, at the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. From the melodic overture, the audience knew it was in good hands. Albert Bergeret was conductor and director, and while I have a few qualms about his stagecraft, his way with the music was magisterial.

    The troupe was founded by Albert Bergeret in 1974 and is still going strong. The operetta performed was the perennial favorite “H.M.S. Pinafore” (one of the G&S big three, along with “The Mikado” and “The Pirates of Penzance”).

    “H.M.S. Pinafore or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor,” like other G&S Players’ productions, has a full orchestra, first-rate scenery (by Albère), costumes (by Gail J. Wofford), lively choreography …


  • H.M.S. Pinafore Sailed Gracefully into the New Year

    Angela Christine Smith as Buttercup (Photo by Noah Strone)

    I spent New Year’s Eve, as I often do, at the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. The troupe was founded by Albert Bergeret in 1974 and is still going strong. The operetta performed was the perennial favorite, “H.M.S. Pinafore” (one of the G&S big three, along with “Mikado” and “Pirates of Penzance”).

    From the melodic overture, the audience knew it was in good hands. Bergeret was conductor and director, and. while I have a few qualms about his stagecraft, his way with the music was magisterial.

    “H.M.S. Pinafore, or The Lass That Loved a Sailor,” like other G&S Players’ productions, has a full orchestra, first-rate scenery (by Albere), costumes (by Gail J. Wofferd), lively choreography (by Bill Fabris) and …


  • Gotham Holiday Swing at Town Hall

    photo by Steve Friedman

    Vince Giordano was the host and leader of his band, the Nighthawks Orchestra and they brought the ebullient sound of jazz to Town Hall to celebrate the holidays.

    The band got off to a swinging start with a rollicking rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Then vocalist Molly Ryan came out in a red dress to sing Louis Prima’s “What Would Santa Say?”

    The Xylopholks are a novelty jazz group that dresses up in animal costumes while they play clarinet, bass and xylophone. They first performed George Green’s “Charleston Capers” and returned later with a vocalist, Benjy Fox-Rosen, for a delightful rendition of Moshe Oysher’s “Drei Dreidel,” reminding the audience that Chanukah was also being celebrated.

    There was quite a bit of …


  • The Alvin Ailey Dance Company’s Welcome Return to City Center

    The late folksinger and civil rights activist is honored in dance

    The Alvin Ailey Dance Company’s Welcome Return to City Center

    By Barry Bassis

    Under its current artistic director Robert Battle, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company continues to develop exciting new works and to present high quality interpretations of dances from outside choreographers.

    The program I attended began with Hofesh Shechter’s “Uprising.” This is a testosterone-fueled piece, with an all-male cast and a percussive score by the choreographer and Vex’d. The muscular dancers don’t know whether to make love or war, so they do both. A chokehold ultimately turns into an embrace. Constantly moving, the seven dancers wrestle and try to escape one another. Finally, in a sort of Delacroix scene, one waves a flag, so apparently the uprising was successful. …


  • Pavarotti at His Peak

    Luciano Pavarotti singing “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot” is likely the most popular recording by an opera singer. (Courtesy of Decca Records)

    If asked to name the most popular recording by an opera singer during the past 50 years, the obvious answer is Luciano Pavarotti singing “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot.”

    Decca has just released three complete operas on Blu-ray Audio Discs (with no video content) and they all capture the great tenor in his prime during the early 1970s. Decca was Pavarotti’s label for his entire career, and it treats his work with the proper respect.

    The sound quality is superb, and the entire package, which contains the full libretto with essays about each opera and Pavarotti’s career as well as photos taken at the sessions, is treasurable.

    ‘Turandot’

    “Turandot” was Puccini’s last opera, unfinished at his death and completed by …



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