Theater Info for the Washington DC region

NoteTaker Productions The City of God – A New Opera

By • Jul 15th, 2012 • Category: Fringe, Reviews
The City of God – A New Opera
NoteTaker Productions
Fort Fringe – Shop (607 New York Ave NW DC)
Through July 28th
90 minutes
Reviewed July 14th, 2012

Oh dear…It is difficult to be kind when one is in excruciating pain. Josh Armenta’s The City of God is a self serious derivative of the works of Arnold Schoenberg and Boris Gudonov, only not as cheerful as the latter two.

The subject of this opera is the standoff in Waco, Texas between several law enforcement agencies and the Branch Davidian sect led and guided by David Koresh, nee Vernon Howell. The end of the 51 day standoff and the conflagration that engulfed the compound and killed Koresh, his followers and their children was enacted live and in living color on cable television. The opera is about the negotiations between Koresh (Alexander Wolniak) and a lone FBI special agent (John T. Danley).

Wolniak and Danley are young and need some seasoning, but they are competent vocalists and presented some very good characterizations. The two men were supported by a chorus of female vocalists in various roles and the composer himself as a follower of Koresh. Unfortunately the music was so loud it was almost impossible to hear the singing of the two principal men and other times the women came out as a chorus drowning out the two men. The lyrics appear to be a twelve-tone poem, but the orchestration does not match the rhythm of the verse. It must have been excruciating for the actors to have to have sung to that music. It was unbearable to have to listen to. There are some things that humans can do better than machines and one of them is to play orchestral music. Shaft was as good as it got.

One particular disappointment occurred when Koresh stopped singing and started talking as if he was still Vernon trying to explain himself. The opera became a play at that point and it was all right because it gave Wolniak a chance to breathe some life into his role; but then the women come out and started singing, thus competing with more loud music and Wolniak is talking and no one can hear him and the audience was willing to give up any secrets it had in order to stop the torture. On the plus side Danley is very handsome.

The City of God is for friends and relatives of the cast. Everyone else should just poke their eyes out with knitting needles.


  • David Koresh: Alexander Wolniak
  • Steve Schneider: Josh Armenta
  • The Negotiator: John T. Danley
  • Davidian Women Chorus: Julia Scherer-Hoock, Gloriana Maria Chaves, Katherina Acosta, Lisa M. Cobham

Production Staff

  • Director & Composer: Josh Armenta
  • Stage Manager: Corey Michael States

Disclaimer: Capital Fringe provided one complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is a theatrical producer. She worked in radio production and direction for many years and gravitated to theatre when family members became involved with the stage.

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  1. Comments on this article are now closed, and the previously published comment has been removed. We have received several comments, both supporting and attacking the reviewer’s article. The really odd thing is that some comments are coming from obviously fake names, but they are coming from the same IP address. Ms. Baskir put her name on her opinions, and we ask that commenters do the same. We also ask that commenters disclose any affiliation or relationship they have with people involved with the production.