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In Review: Zetlan shines in wildly successful "Ellen West"

“Persuasive and powerful, too, was Jennifer Zetlan as the tormented psychoanalytic patient at the center of “Ellen West”; Ms. Zetlan was focused through rangy, angry vocal lines and sweetly plangent in nostalgic reflection. . . The text is an enigmatic and poignant expression of a self that feels itself unreal…Gordon’s elegantly impassioned score drew dusky lyricism from the Aeolus Quartet, conducted here by Lidiya Yankovskaya.”

–Zachary Woolfe, New York Times

“Soprano Jennifer Zetlan gave a committed performance as the unstable, tormented Ellen, sounding strikingly at home in the music of Gordon, with whom she collaborated on the 2018 album Your Clear Eye. Zetlan embodied Ellen’s vulnerability in moments of vivid introspection as well as her frantic agony. In one therapy session, in which Ellen delivers a monologue about Maria Callas, weight and Tosca, Zetlan personified the somber situation of a mentally ill woman born both in the wrong time and as the wrong sex. . . Gordon’s music captures the tumultuous emotions of the libretto. The vocal lines are at times punchy, then achingly simple; the instrumentation sometimes becomes so frantic that it sounds like a first-rate thriller score. Lidiya Yankovskaya conducted the Aeolus Quartet with passion: the ensemble played behind a scenery window, and was visible through the mullions.”

-Opera News

“Zetlan gave an outstanding performance of Ellen West, Dr. Binswanger’s pseudonymic patient… Zetlan accurately portrayed someone who wanted to jump out her skin, out of her body and the sickening feeling of being hemmed in by a corporeal world. She pushed out into the audience an itchy, claustrophobic vibe that was thick and palpable. That was the key ingredient in bringing the audience along with her as she communicated Ellen’s tormented inner life. Gordon wanted Zetlan in this role, and after seeing her perform, he was spot-on in his selection. . . Tension from beginning to end… The Aeolus Quartet conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya sets the instrumentalists into a mild pizzicato frenzy.”

-Opera Wire

“The central pillar of the production is Jennifer Zetlan’s captivating performance as Ellen… her firm soprano has a way of grabbing the listener’s attention and not letting go. Titles were projected above the stage, but they were hardly needed, as Zetlan’s delivery brought intention and clarity to every syllable. From beginning to end, she disappeared entirely into the painful psychology of her character. . . Lidiya Yankovskaya brilliantly led the orchestral accompaniment, finding meaning in every gesture.”

-New York Classical Review

“Jennifer Zetlan’s portrayal of Ellen is brilliantly executed, he voice wide-ranging, powerful and displaying considerable tonal variety. . . Lidiya Yankovskaya’s musical direction is an equal partner, lending the piece plenty of emotional weight and dramatic tension.” -Musical America

“For me, the highlight of the evening was the portrayal of the afflicted title character by the brilliant soprano Jennifer Zetlan. Zetlan did outstanding work in making the tale of gender and eating disorder issues an emotional tour-de-force with the material she was given. Her strong soprano showed off some of the best aspects of Gordon's score…Music director Lidiya Yankovskaya and the Aeolus Quartet did a fine job in bringing out the best elements of Gordon's score…”

-Broadway World

“The soprano Jennifer Zetlan copes tirelessly in the title role… Lidiya Yankovskaya fluently conducts a string quartet, bass and piano.”

-The Financial Times


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