Lully Well Served, Molière Disserved

United StatesUnited States Lully and Molière, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme: Soloists, Cornish Opera Theater, Stephen Stubbs (music director), Makaela Pollock (stage director), Anna Mansbridge (choreographer), Cornish Playhouse, Seattle, 18.10.2013 (BJ)

 This is only half of a review, because I witnessed only half of the performance.

There was much that was worthy of praise in the recent rare staging, at Seattle’s Cornish Playhouse, of Molière’s and Lully’s comedy-ballet Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. The musical side of the performance was, as you would expect with Stephen Stubbs in charge of an ensemble concertmastered by Tekla Cunningham, delightful. The singing was mostly excellent. The dancing, choreographed by baroque specialist Anna Mansbridge, was graceful. The actors on stage, most of them young and many of them students, did what was required of them with infectious zest and conviction. And yet I left at intermission.

I left because what the director required of them demonstrated so egregious a misreading of Molière’s immortal satire that nothing in the second half of the evening could possibly have reconciled me to what was going on. I have been hesitating to write about it on the basis of just the first half. But I have not seen a review in any other medium or publication, and I have concluded that Makaela Pollock, the person responsible, should not be allowed to get away with such a travesty without the raising of at least one voice in brief but passionate protest.

The whole point of the satire, and what makes Monsieur Jourdain so irresistibly funny, is that he is monumentally serious in his absurd social aspirations. Play the piece as a knockabout farce, and represent its central figure as a grinning booby, and you have irretrievably destroyed everything that is funny in it.

I ought perhaps, in all honesty, to report that many members of the audience were clearly enjoying themselves hugely. You may therefore be inclined to write me off as an intellectual snob. So be it. But I think you would be wrong. And I am reasonably sure that Molière would have agreed with me.

Bernard Jacobson

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