Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Distanced from L’Amour de Loin

It almost seems too late to bother writing about this performance, but I have thoughts and I like to share them; and I rarely let minor things like good timing get in the way. So here goes.

L’Amour de Loin is an odd opera; difficult to get “into;” almost an oratorio. But in preparation for the Met Live in HD cine-cast, I found an audio recording; and I took some time with both the official Met podcast and the new He Sang, She Sang offering from WQXR—both of which offer great insights into the piece. I also caught some excerpts from the premiere performances in Salzburg (?) as directed by Peter Sellars. I kind of wish he’d directed this one.

Once again, Robert Lepage focuses on his machinery at the expense of his singers. I must concur with [another blogger, whose name I cannot remember at the moment, but I will fill it in and add a link as soon as I can figure out who it was]**, who wished that Mr. Lepage would let his singers get down on the stage and move about. The lights were pretty and expressive, but the machine was ungainly and drew odd attention to itself. Plus, the chorus looked odd (and uncomfortable) popping up in between the rows of lights to sing. I swear I heard people giggle (not sure if it was in the theater or in the opera house) the first few times the heads of the chorus bobbed up from the “sea.”

I like Susanna Philips and thought she did a lovely job; and I absolutely fell in love with Tamara Mumford. (I think this’d be an awesome role for Anne Sofie von Otter; although she probably doesn't need to bother looking for new roles these days.) I admire Eric Owens, but even he admitted (in the subsequent Rusalka between-acts interviewthat this role was not in his fach. The opera world is full of wonderful lyric baritones—why did they mis-cast Mr. Owens in this role? Meanwhile,  it’s great to see women composers and conductors represented at the Met. More, please.

The opera is oddly* moving; mesmerizing and effective in a Tristan-esque sort of way—although with more effective Personenregie it could be even more moving. By focusing his staging on light and machinery, Mr. Lapage kept me at arms-length. I wanted to feel weepy at the end. Instead I felt merely wistful.

All that said, I am glad I saw/heard/experienced this opera. And I am not ruling out seeing it again—most likely on Great Performances on PBS; and/or if I ever get around to subscribing to the Met on Demand.

*I realize I used some form of the word “odd” four times in this brief entry. Usually I would try to find some nifty and creative synonyms, but in the case of this opera, I’ve decided to own my over-use of the word. 

**REVISED 03/19/2017: I finally found the reference. It was, as I thought I'd remembered, Michaela (formerly Zerbinetta) in her Likely Impossibilities blog review of Rusalka. She said: 
"Robert Lepage’s L’amour de loin showed that after a whole bunch of Met productions he still hasn’t grasped that you can make the stage flat and get singers to walk around on it and this can be a dynamic choice."

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