June 14, 2007


Cheers—and Loathing—at the Metropolitan Opera: Which will win out: glorious triumphs or trendy travesties? (Heather Mac Donald, 14 June 2007, City Journal)

The Metropolitan Opera’s 2006–07 season ended with a telling contrast. Broadway director Jack O’Brien’s setting of Puccini’s Il Trittico—which airs on PBS tonight, in what will truly be must-see TV—stayed faithful to the music and to the composer’s dramatic intentions, creating an evening of overpowering theatrical intensity. Choreographer Mark Morris’s rendering of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, on the other hand, ignored the stylistic mandates in the score and produced a pedestrian, sometimes silly, visual spectacle that rarely matched the music’s greatness. The Met’s aesthetic future depends on which production style prevails.

Puccini’s Il Trittico (“The Triptych”) is a collection of three short one-act operas; it makes a strong case for limiting every opera to a single act, if the results would match Puccini’s accomplishment here. Each one-hour opera is a marvel of compression and dramatic tension. Every note expresses an emotion; every emotion drives the plots to their inexorable conclusions. Various hypotheses have been offered about what unifies the three stories—the presence of death, for example, or a connection to Dante’s Divine Comedy (the third opera, Gianni Schicchi, derives from a few lines in the Inferno); no theory is particularly persuasive. The musical tie is clearer: a dark wind blows through all three operas, rising from their complex and sophisticated harmonies. The best course, given the remarkable musical outcome, is simply to be grateful that Puccini set himself the formal challenge of composing three short one-acts.

GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET: "Il Trittico" (Premieres on June 16, 2007 on PBS)
Composer: Giacomo Puccini

Librettist: Giuseppe Adami, adapted from the play "La Houppelande" by Didier Gold

Production: Jack O'Brien

Conductor: James Levine

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2007 12:42 AM
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