Sunday, November 25, 2007
Cirque du Stravinsky
The Canadian theatrical genius Robert Lepage (click here for his website) has just directed his third opera, a new production of Stravinsky and W.H. Auden's 1950s opera about 18th century London which is sort of a mashing together of "Don Giovanni" and "Faust" with its own astringent flavor.
The new production has been cosponsored by the San Francisco Opera along with Brussels and Lyon, which have already performed it, and it's easily one of the most witty, colorful and intelligent opera productions I've seen.
As Leon Dubois (above) noted, the David Hockney production which the San Francisco Opera has used for the last twenty years was quite beautiful, but we were tired of it. Lepage's version is amazing, with magical transformations between scenes that are funny and mysterious.
The production is set in the 1950s in the modern Southwest, with a working oil derrick setting the scene from the beginning. The concept works beautifully, and without unnecessary underlining, makes clear that Oil and Hollywood are just two very modern versions of age-old vices: greed, licentiousness, avarice and stupidity.
The only scene that didn't work for me as well as the old Hockney production was the final one set in Bedlam, which needed both more stylization and more tenderness.
This was also the best cast I've ever heard in this strange, wonderful Stravinsky score. Steven Cole (above on the left) played the small part of the Auctioneer as if he was channeling both Hugues Cuenod (the originator of the role) and Little Richard.
The part of Anne Truelove seemed to be wrong for Laura Aikin (it really does require a dramatic soprano) but she has a sweet, beautiful voice which was fine, while Denyce Graves as Baba the Turk was funny, in superb voice, and with the best English diction of the evening.
The happiest surprise was James Morris as Satan aka Nick Shadow, who seems to have made his own pact with the devil. For the last decade, Morris' voice has been a bit woolly, but on Friday he was booming through the opera house like a young man.
My friend Sidney thought the orchestra could have been a little "crisper," but I thought Runnicles and his troupe were extraordinary. There are only five more performances. Be sure to check it out (click here for tickets).