Thursday, December 8, 2016

MET "Live in HD": Spectacular new production of stunning new opera

I am moving this blog to my new website, so this will be one of the last posts here.

I returned yesterday from a visit to my alma mater for an excellently performed double-bill of Ravel and Puccini, followed by another visit to the MET for the premiere production of the most compelling operatic score of the 21st century, Kaaija Ssariaho's L'amour de Loin. Check out the MET website, which is a great resource for opera lovers in general, in addition to their current repertoire.

After a couple days reflection, I will say this production is the best new production I've seen at the MET in at least 10 years, and must rank as one of the most important new productions the MET has done in its history. Besides being only the 2nd opera composed by a woman to appear at the MET (the other was by Ethyl Smyth, in 1903), it featured the conducting debut of only the 4th woman to appear in the MET pit, the Finnish dynamo and contemporary specialist, Susanna Mälkki. The musical performance was supreme. This score is atmospheric and dense with layers of sound that envelop the listener like mists, or enchant one like the lull and depth of the sea. I find her one of the most compelling voices in contemporary music today, and one of the most important composers to emerge in the century-plus-long history of modernism. It's time more people listened to creative women. Their voices, like Saariaho's and Mälkki's are vital and distinct.

The cast consists of a trio of great all-star American opera singers. Eric Owens plays the historical troubadour Rudel, in love with an historical Countess of Tripoli, astonishingly sung by Susannah Phillips. The "love from afar" is mediated by an original character sung by the young mezzo, Tamara Mumford. She is an androgynous pilgrim who floats back and forth between the lovers across a light-show sea. The set is hypnotically represented by 28,000 LED lights strung across the stage and pit, spectacularly rendered by Robert Lepage and his Quebec team. For anyone disappointed or unimpressed with the controversial Ring cycle he mounted several years ago, this is a production that finally captures the magic of his Cirque de Soleil successes. If you see no other new production this season, see this one. Click here for tickets. As a colleague, and former OR Apprentice Artist I randomly saw at the performance said to me, "The Met should do more productions like that."

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