American Modern Opera Company Brings ‘Veils for Desire’ to Guild Hall

Anthony Roth Costanzo, Matthew Aucoin, Paul Appleby, Photos: Matthew Placek, Steven Laxton, Jonathan Tichler
Anthony Roth Costanzo, Matthew Aucoin, Paul Appleby, Photos: Matthew Placek, Steven Laxton, Jonathan Tichler

Everybody wants what they can’t have. That sense of longing is endlessly inspiring for artists, and music can communicate where words constrain the emotions.

On Friday, July 26, Guild Hall hosts the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) for a one-night recital called Veils for Desire. The program combines world-famous opera voices and music with poetry.

Veils for Desire features works from Benjamin Britten, Claudio Monteverdi, Johann Sebastian Bach and Matthew Aucoin. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo will sing with tenor Paul Appleby. Aucoin will accompany on the piano and poet and scholar Wayne Koestenbaum will narrate the recital.

Founder of the newly formed AMOC and composer Aucoin says the program took 18 months to curate. Aucoin and his collaborators tried to find pieces where the language of the lyrics is “socially permissible” but the music conjures contrasting motives.

“We found a lot of vocal music where the music and the text are mysteriously at odds, or where the music seems to be expressing something darker or wilder than the text would seem to mean on its own,” Aucoin says. “I hope the audience is moved by the amazing sensual and spiritual power of this music. I also hope they come away with a renewed sense of music’s mystery.”

Aucoin notes the first piece that came to anchor the show was Britten’s canticle Abraham and Isaac, based on the Biblical story of Abraham who was commanded by God to kill his son. “It showcases Anthony and Paul’s voices so beautifully,” Aucoin says.

Countertenor Costanzo will play the title role of Akhnaten in the Philip Glass opera at the Metropolitan Opera House this fall—his first title role on the famed stage.

In addition to being charmed by the “Barefoot Contessa fantasy,” Costanzo believes the Hamptons is an inspiring place for artists to perform because audiences are eager and receptive.

“I love that aspect of the community there. Engaging the Hamptons community artistically is different than in New York City. People in the Hamptons are more open and excited to receive the art. People have their guard down,” Costanzo says.

Costanzo says the intimacy of the Guild Hall venue can give audiences a sense of the dynamics and power of opera as “an acoustic art form.”

“A whisper draws you in,” he explains.

Costanzo says that experiencing opera for the first time in a venue such as Guild Hall could be “more vibrant” than seeing it in a vast space like the Met.

Artistic Director of the John Drew Theatre Josh Gladstone has declared this the “Summer of Sound” and lauds the caliber of talent with this show.

“American Modern Opera Company weaves wonderfully into our sonic tapestry,” Gladstone says. “It is a sharp group of the best classical voices up and coming in the field today. With credits ranging from Juilliard to the Met to Los Angeles Opera, they are among the most sought-after voices of this generation and are in the vanguard of what opera can be in the 21st century.”

See American Modern Opera Company’s Veils for Desire at Guild Hall on Friday, July 26 at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit

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