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Album Review

On their third album (following the independently distributed La Donna and the self-titled major-label debut of 2005), Peter Kiesewalter and Tyley Ross' East Village Opera Company continue to pursue their hybrid agenda of marrying classical music, particularly opera, to progressive and classic rock styles. That agenda continues to present a threshold question to listeners: is it valid or just a parlor trick? And different listeners may answer that question differently. Classical and opera fans probably are less likely than progressive and classic rock fans to be accepting or, to put it another way, to find the joke amusing. Assuming that the threshold can be crossed, Old School pushes the process a little further than its predecessors. Kiesewalter and Ross have taken some creative liberties with their classical, out-of-copyright sources by including some music and lyrics of their own here and there. Each track is based on a classical antecedent, with the works of Wagner, Mozart, Handel, Verdi, Bononcini, Bellini, Gounod, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Puccini having been raided this time out. But less of them and more of the adapters can be heard than on previous albums. And so can many characteristic rock styles. In particular, the sounds of many guitarists are noticeable, particularly Queen's Brian May, but also Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, the Edge of U2, and Lindsey Buckingham. "The Ride," the leadoff track, for example, may be drawn from Wagner's Die Walküre, but it has been crossed with Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" and given a guitar solo like one of Gilmour's from Pink Floyd, and English lyrics have been added. "Brindisi Libera (Pop the Cork)," out of Verdi's La Traviata, mixes English and Italian lyrics, boasts a disco beat, and fades out on a jazzy trumpet solo. "Soldiers" from Gounod's Faust has a May-like guitar part and rhythm patterns borrowed from Edwin Starr's "War." All of this is efficiently accomplished. But somehow the threshold question never quite goes away. These descriptions may sound intriguing to the average Meat Loaf or Queen fan, and if so, the album is worth investigating. Adherents of Wagner and Verdi may not be so tolerant.


Genre: Classical

Years Active: '00s

While there's plenty of "rock meets classical" from which to choose -- Elvis Costello's ambitious project with the Brodsky Quartet, the smooth teen-classical-pop of Il Divo, and the gigantic bombast of Trans-Siberian Orchestra to name just a few -- the East Village Opera Company are most influenced by Malcolm McLaren's sumptuous 1984 album Fans, which put a new stylish spin on opera. Singer Tyley Ross and arranger/multi-instrumentalist Peter Kiesewalter set out to do the same when they formed their...
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Olde School, East Village Opera Company
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