NOLA Defender reviews The Self Portrait of Jonathan Jenkins:


The stage setting in The Self-Portrait of Jonathan Jenkins is an effectively stark one, using a quintet of expressionistic colored door frames to define space, stand in for Jenkins’ canvases, and the like. They’re each colored differently, corresponding to one of the main characters. It’s fitting, then, that Jonathan Jenkins is the grey one, as he functions mostly as a the eye of the hurricane around which swirl the ambitions of others.

 It’s these others who conspire to shape and ruin Jenkins’ artistic career. After his art is discovered in a gallery, he is quickly swept into what seems to be an ideal situation: representation by the “straight-forward” yet worldly art dealer Raymond Richter, who introduces him to the single-minded gallery owner Regine LaRoux. He sits for an interview with self-serving journalist Alita Allegra, and while LaRoux agrees to represent him for a show starting in only one month, she insists that he change his style to better suit potential buyers. She also insists that he sign a contract with the vicious lawyer Saxon Spellmeyer – in which he ends up signing away the rights to his art.

 Mark Anthony Thomas performs Jenkins himself; his dynamic, expressive voice and pleasant demeanor embody both the affable newcomer and the wronged man. […]

 The leads generally bring ample personality to the table here along with their generally excellent voice. Erin Rementer plays LaRoux with catty relish, snapping everyone to attention at will. Shelley Burton’s turn as perky but conniving Alita Allegra is a high point, and a hilariously slouchy Guy Tem basically embodies his rather bizarre character. JeAnne Swinley’s Spellmeyer is a sort of lawyer tramp, seducing Jenkins powerfully to sign his life away.

 This was the world premiere of Self-Portrait, composed by Chris Burton, co-founder of the brand-new New Fangled Opera, and directed by Frances Rabalais. Burton’s score employs the peppiness and darting interjections of Gershwin-era modernism; it’s dense and extraordinarily resourceful, if unable to reach the emotional depths without a larger orchestra. However, played ably by the New Orleans Volunteer Orchestra under the direction of Burton himself, the score largely conveys just what it needs to. The New Fangled is dedicated to performing new opera work, and this one may provide a welcome foot in the door for the future. The Self Portrait of Jonathan Jenkins plays at Mardi Gras Zone (Port and Architect) on Nov. 16 at 5 p.m., Nov. 17 at 9 p.m., and Nov. 18 at 11 p.m. –Travis Bird”