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Judgement Of Paris: Morningside Opera Is At It Again And I Can’t Wait

by Karen Tortora-Lee on August 12, 2011

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I like nothing better than being naughty at the Opera.  Neophytes might consider this akin to making out in the last pew of church but, actually, it’s not.  I mean, really.  Generally, no matter which opera you’re attending there’s all this drama unfolding in front of you … all this intense emotion, this deep passion, this hear break, this “I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN” melodrama.  How could it not inspire you to get a little frisky during intermission?

Well, okay, usually it’s kinda impossible to get frisky, but a gal can dream.  But wait – hold the phone.  What’s this? Morningside Opera is actually encouraging frisky behavior with their latest opera, The Judgment of Paris. Just look at that poster!  It’s hotter than a Russ Meyer film.   I, of course, will be there.   Let’s not forget these are the folks who supplied the fabulous burlesque performer Medianoche to do a strip tease during their Diva Search Karaoke – so you know they’re serious when it comes to sizzle. I chatted with Amber Youell who is a performing in  Judgment of Paris, while also serving on Moringside Opera’s board of directors.  Listen as she tells me how they intend to push the boundaries and seduce their audience loud and clear.


Morningside Opera definitely stretches the boundaries of what people typically think of as Opera – in a good way! Tell me a little bit about this latest production and what audiences can expect.

Amber Youell

We’ve done a couple things to play with the genre in this production. The origin of this opera is a musical contest: four composers (John Eccles, John Weldon, Daniel Purcell, and Godfrey Finger) were to set a libretto by William Congreve. Weldon’s won the original contest, though Eccles won in a restaging in the 1990s. In our version, we’ve mixed and matched our favorite numbers from the various settings. However, our staging is where we really push the boundaries. First, we’re performing in a very intimate pub location (Jimmy’s No. 43)–we encourage the audience to eat and drink heartily through the performance! Second, we’ve refigured this beauty pageant between the three goddess as a strip-show, with a couple of other surprises thrown in.

You play Juno. Tell me about a favorite moment in the production for you involving your character.
I love playing Juno because, like her, I’m a mom and I have a pretty bad temper. Although I’ve played Juno before, in this production I get to reveal her really bad-ass side. My favorite part is when I get to unleash this on Paris (who is played by my real-life partner) during a very surprising, edgy, minor-key aria.

Opera plots, traditionally, have always been rife with sex — but to the outsider opera is considered stuffy and uptight. It looks like Morningside is working to get the casual audience member to understand something that’s always existed in the medium. Is that true?
Opera is always a sensual art-form, but The Judgment of Paris almost begs for raunchy retelling. At a pivotal point Paris sings “When each is undress’d, I’ll judge of the best, for ’tis not a face that will carry the prize.” Of course the original singers wouldn’t have literally unrobed, but their subsequent arias are an aural translation of the visual seduction of striptease–whether through florid melismas, delicately seductive melodies, or bombastic fanfares. Centuries of theorists have discussed opera’s “seduction of the ear.” You’re absolutely right in that we’re trying to get this message across loud and clear. I think this production would be a great intro to the world of opera because of its short length (45 minutes), casual setting, and hilarious staging.

Give me one word that does NOT describe The Judgement of Paris.
CAN’T THINK OF ONE, YOU PICK! appropriate uptight reverent.

You know, I like all three of those words – so I don’t want to pick either!  Thanks, Amber, for giving us a little taste of what’s to come on August 3oth.

Judgment of Paris
Jimmy’s No. 43
43 E. 7th Street
New York, NY 10003
Tuesday Aug 30, 2011 7:00 PM
Tuesday Aug 30, 2011 9:00 PM

Ages 18 and up.

Tickets $12 in advance/$15 at the door


Purchase tickets here
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