Thursday, November 06, 2008

Lyric opera

We went to the dress rehearsal of "Les Contes d'Hoffman" last night and are still bedazzled. What a show. Opera is reality heightened through an orgiastic mingling of multiple stage arts to produce a spectacle that will move the mind along with the heart and the senses. Nietzsche and Wagner proposed that opera was the highest of all art forms, best able to appeal to all that is best and basest in human nature. We agree and the Tales of Hoffman confirms that thesis.

Who was that golden, allegoric figure playing the violin? It was none other than Alecia Batson, Boston's hardest working auditionee. Before the show, the audience was informed that the performers were not Broadway singers. There were no microphones. "Our singers are trained sing properly, to fill the theater." We were in the mezzanine and the lyrical notes reverberated like a chorus of professionals, which is good since they were. There is nothing amateurish about this production, from the performers, to the sets, to the costumes, to the lighting to the puppetry at play. This is spectacle. This is why opera was the dominant, most extravagant art form of its day.

No one left disappointed. The cast wrapped its onlookers around its hook and the evening was a magic carpet ride between surreal comedy and poignant tragedy. Color, lilting notes, contralto, basso profundo, and all in French though you didn't need to understand the words to know what was going on. Subtitles were projected on screens for those who wanted to know the poetry issuing from the mouths of the singers. Opera. There is nothing like it and at three hours, this show flew by with each scene trumping the one before.

My companion asked me how we would recognize Alecia Batson. I sang her one word, sotto voce: "Goldfinger." When we spotted our heroine, my companion remarked she was expected something more along the lines of a body-painted go-go dancer than a Quincy Market mummer. Though this show plumbs the depths of eroticism and the human psyche, it is appropriate for all ages.

Another review is here.

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