Archive for March, 2016
I have attended two opera broadcasts during the MetLive in HD’s 10th anniversary season. This chance choice of repertoire allowed me to revel in the presence of two fascinating females: “Lulu” and, most recently, “Manon Lescaut”.
The two productions also presented different stagings, one successful and one much less so. Lulu is the lusty and wily seducer who bends lovers to her will (killing a few before her own demise) while Manon is a much weaker, more innocent heroine, whose indecisiveness and love of luxury leads to her deportation and death in her lover’s arms.
Alban Berg’s opera is a masterpiece and among the greatest 20th Century operas while the Puccini version, compared to the original Massenet treatment, is a pastiche of the 19th Century novel on which the libretto is based.
I found the Met’s ingenious production of “Lulu” featuring video projections by artist, William Kentridge, gripping. The result was a stunning theatrical, as well as vocal, experience. Kentridge has said his scenic projections are there to provoke “our thinking about ourselves, our awareness of ourselves as looking.” His images of countless newspaper headlines and of Lulu, her face, her body clothed and naked, are like a disassembled jigsaw puzzle.
A hallmark of the Peter Gelb era at the Met has been to chart a new course for the standard repertoire in an attempt to attract new, younger audiences. He has engaged many directors from the theater world to inject new life and more updated, dramatic stagings of operatic works. This is causing bitterly fought arguments, as a New York Times story noted, not over dueling composers or singers but opposing styles of direction.
The Kentridge conception, marrying visually stunning imagery with the dynamic theatrical flair of Marlis Petersen as Lulu resulted in a melding of singer, sets and staging to produce a full operatic experience. However, I took exception to English director Richard Eyre‘s conception for “Manon”.
He took Puccini’s traditional staging and simply transposed the action from 18th Century France up to World War II, during Nazi-occupied France, without supplying a raison d’etre for the shift. Eyre claimed it was to stress the moral ambiguity of the times on the characters. Rubbish. Apart from having some incidental cast members dressed in Nazi uniforms make brief appearances, the conception was inert and failed to raise any deep moral questions. Manon and her lover, Des Grieux, remain the same doomed lovers as in more traditional stagings.
The one aspect in which both productions achieved success was in the outstanding vocal talents of the two heroines: Marlis Petersen as Lulu and Kristine Opolais as Manon. Both ladies brought the necessary attributes–slim, beguiling figures and compelling dramatic ability–to their roles.
Three more Met productions, presented nationally in theaters by Fathom Events, remain on this year’s schedule. The next production, Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” (featuring the talented Ms. Opolais once more) will be broadcast April 2nd. The 10th anniversary season ends with telecasts of Donizetti’s “Roberto Devereux” (April 16) and Strauss’ “Elektra” (April 30). To purchase tickets, go to www.fathomevents.com.