Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The New MET Opera: Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic v. Slow Metamorphosis Into The Metropolitan National Opera?

... "Gelb’s metamorphosis of the Met is a fascinating sleight of hand, because nothing new is happening onstage. [Film director of The English Patient Anthony] Minghella’s “Butterfly” was Gelb’s only addition to the season that Volpe had already planned, and it originated last fall at the English National Opera. What we are witnessing is a virtuoso repackaging. The consequences of Gelb’s future plans—he has announced collaborations with new directors, several commissions of new operas, ventures into music theatre—won’t be known until 2009 or 2010. There are reasons to be skeptical. Celebrity worship will get the Met only so far; people aren’t going to pay premium prices to sit near Jude Law, stimulating as that experience may be. Even if Gelb’s ideas are uniformly brilliant, they may draw fire from conservatives, who, these days, tend to be found not only on the governing board, as in Kahn’s time, but in the unions. Yet the speed with which Gelb has accomplished his early goals is impressive. The old behemoth is suddenly shrugging off dated rituals, throwing together complex deals with the unions and the media, flying by night in high style. For the duration of the gala, there was no more fabulous place on earth, which is as it should be.

Minghella’s “Butterfly” bodes well for the progress of Gelb’s taste. It offers several of the most piercingly beautiful images I’ve seen in an opera house. Brilliantly costumed women rise in a long line at the back of the stage, their peacock colors shining against a turquoise sky, their figures reflected in the lacquer floor and on panels above. A dozen white paper lanterns hover in the dark, their mirror images floating like many moons. Immense curtains of flower petals descend as the pure-hearted Cio-Cio-San and the cynical Pinkerton embrace. At the end, when Cio-Cio-San chooses suicide over shame, a huge swath of blood-red fabric unfurls diagonally across the stage. Film directors don’t always make good opera directors; what I’ve seen of Werner Herzog’s productions lacks the visual power of “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” and “Fitzcarraldo,” and even Andrei Tarkovsky’s ominous “Boris Godunov” paled next to “Andrei Rublev.” Minghella wisely sets aside the idea of approximating cinematic sprawl onstage ...

Minghella directs the action with uncommon care, steering clear of the big-budget theatrical amateurism that has reigned for too long at the Met."

Alex Ross "METAMORPHOSIS: “Butterfly” at the Met" The New Yorker Issue of October 9, 2006 Posted October 2, 2006


While I generally agree with Mr Ross regarding the opera theater production work of filmmakers Werner Herzog and Andrei Tarkovsky, I thought that Mr Herzog's production of Wagner's Tannhauser, which I saw at the Baltimore Lyric Opera, was one of the most beautiful and haunting productions that I have yet seen in the Washington/Baltimore region.

The 1998 Synagogue in Graz, Austria; site of one of the many 70th birthday tributes to American composer Steve Reich. Link from Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise.

Photo credit: IKG Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Graz. With thanks.


Post a Comment

<< Home