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A Preview: Metropolitan Opera Presents World Premiere Baroque Pastiche: “The Enchanted Island”
United States The Enchanted Island , Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, William Christie (Conductor), New York, (31.12.2011 – 30.1.2012) (SSM)
Performances from December 31, 2011 – January 30, 2012
Live in HD Performance: January 21, 2012
Devised and Written by Jeremy Sams
Production: Phelim McDermott
Set Designer: Julian Crouch
Costume Designer: Kevin Pollard
Lighting Designer: Brian MacDevitt
Choreographer: Graciela Daniele
Animation & Projection Design: 59 Productions
Danielle de Niese (Soprano),
David Daniels (Countertenor)
Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo-Soprano)
Placido Domingo (Tenor)
Luca Pisoroni (Bass-Baritone)
Layla Claire (Soprano)
Elizabeth DeShong (Mezzo-Soprano)
Lisette Oropesa (Soprano)
Paul Appleby (Tenor)
Anthony Roth Constanzo (Countertenor)
Elilot Madore (Baritone)
The comments below are based on a viewing of the final dress rehearsal and reflect a work still in progress.
The Metropolitan Opera, rarely at the forefront with productions of new operas, has chosen to present an opera that is both new and old. Following the precedent of composers of the 18th century, who recycled their own music as well as music of their contemporaries, the production team has taken their music from the Baroque composers Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell, Campra, Rebel, Ferrandini and Leclair. Although some of the names listed here are familiar, none of their music is. It might have been easier to include more familiar music, but not doing so speaks to the integrity of the production. The libretto, written in English by Jeremy Sams, closely reflects the sensibility of the composers of the original music: the common weaknesses found in both gods and men, the persistence of love (and lust), the role of chance and change, the demands made on those at the top and the bottom of the social hierarchy, the mutability of sexual attraction and the need for forgiveness. Jeremy Sams’s libretto is sometimes successful in its attempts to be funny in a topical way and clever in the use of contemporary jargon, but not so successful at other times when even the cast seems to know that their lines are falling flat.
What makes this production so special and worthy of attending live or in HD is the participating of some of the best performers of Baroque music alive today. William Christie’s involvement alone is an imprimatur of authenticity and high quality. The cast is a Baroque opera lover’s dream. All the soloists are familiar with Baroque performance style and sing the difficult music with ease. Only Placido Domingo’s voice lacks early music styling, but this is made up for by his acting: his appearance as the god Neptune adds a sense of camp in a scene reminiscent of Busby Berkeley spectacles. The staging is wildly creative in its use of both traditional operatic elements and modern computerized visual effects.
Perhaps in the future the Met will look back more often to the past and revive other forgotten masterpieces such as Leclair’s sole opera, Scylla and Glaucus or Vivaldi’s Bajazet. Lully, whose music is not included in this pastiche, is eminently eligible for revival following the successful performance this year of Atys at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Several other operas by Lully have been produced elsewhere, but have not made their appearance in New York: Thésée and Psyché at the Boston Early Music Festival; Bellérophon, Roland and Proserpine among others in French productions by Christophe Rousset and Hervé Niquet.This production should not be missed in either its live or HD live performance.