Remember Me, the highly theatrical collaboration between Parsons Dance and the East Village Opera Company (EVOC) now at the Joyce Theater, definitely lives up to its title, as it’s sure to linger in the minds of its viewers for some time. Equally, if not more important, the 75-minute piece is likely to bring plenty of new fans to both companies.
Perhaps the lesser-known of the two, EVOC resets some of opera’s most famous tunes into dynamic 21st-century arrangements that borrow from pop, rock, and even new age music. Remember Me uses 15 of the group’s selections — performed to a combination of recorded music and live vocals by Tyley Ross and AnnMarie Milazzo — as the soundtrack for a loosely told love story between Maria (the fearless Abby Silva) and Artemis (the charismatic Zac Hammer), whose romance is killed by rival Gintus (the compact, intense Miguel Quinones).
Parsons’ unusual use of these well-known arias — aided in large part by Jason Thompson’s inventive projections and Tony Award winner Howell Binkley’s superb lighting — is often compelling, and sometimes breathtaking. Among the work’s best set pieces are a red-hot rendition of “Habanera” (from Carmen), an unusual pas de deux with Silva in a bungee harness set to the “Flower Duet” from Lakme, a truly daring use of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” as the backdrop for Gintus’ attempted rape of Maria, and two tragic sections towards the work’s end: one set to Madama Butterfly‘s “Un Bel Di,” and the other to La Wally‘s “Ebben.”
Admitedly, Parsons’ choreography is somewhat less sophisticated than in some of his other works. Moreover, his current company is made up of extremely young dancers — I doubt any of them have reached their 30th birthday — and their technique isn’t quite the equal of some of the country’s more established companies. But their energy and enthusiasm consistenly shine through.
Ross and Milazzo are beautifully integrated into the work, showing remarkable comfort with movement. Further, Ross’ effective tenor is well-suited to EVOC’s more hard-rock arrangements, while the stunning Milazzo (who has done vocal arrangements for Spring Awakening and Next to Normal) has Celine Dion-like power paired with true expressiveness. They are definitely names to remember.