I mentioned yesterday that I'll be going to San Francisco on Sunday to see Le Grand Macabre. After reading the review in today's Financial Times, I'm glad I decided to spend the money on this. Five stars awarded out of five possible is a pretty good endorsement. (Review by Allen Ulrich follows):
Le Grand Macabre (War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco)
Wherever on the map the Marx Brothers' Freedonia abuts Hieronymus Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights", there you will find Gyorgy Ligeti's ebullient doomsday fantasy, imported to the US by the San Francisco Opera's enlightened general director, Pamela Rosenberg, who may have a triumph on her hands.
Adapted from a play by Michel de Ghelderode, the work elevates gallows humour to a first principle. Annihilation in Ligeti's Brueghelland is announced by a grim but easily distracted reaper and the people who believe the end is round the corner include a gluttonous prince, a pair of hormonally charged lovers, a tosspot wine vendor, a sadomasochistic astronomer (and his ever-obliging wife), carbon-copy politicians and a police chief who turns every act of betrayal into a stratospheric mad scene. Cross-dressing and unconventional vocal categories dominate.
Kaspar Bech Holten has updated his splendid 2001 Royal Danish Opera production for US consumption, snatching political allusions from the headlines and coaxing his superior international cast to project Geoffrey Skelton's English translation with acid-tongued (and amplified) bravado. Paced with farcical zest, the production derives much of its bounce from Steffen Aarfing's cartoon-inspired decor, with fly-in balloons and a colour scheme that winks at good taste.
The bass-baritone Willard White and the tenor Graham Clark, veterans of several productions, repeated their muscle-bound Nekrotzar and squirmy Piet the Pot with wry results. Caroline Stein delivered Gepopo's coloratura sublimely; countertenor Gerald Thompson invested the Prince Go-Go with androgynous fervour. Debutants Susanne Resmark and Clive Bayley hit rare comic heights in their outrageous sex play. In the pit, Michael Boder conjured moods from sweet to sardonic, guiding Ligeti's car horn prelude with particular relish.
Does anyone want to play a game and pick Oz characters to take on the opera roles described above? I can see Toby in a few of them ...
Finally, in the "I'm probably going to make a complete fool of myself" category, I've undertaken to learn French en public by joining the lost_in_french community. Je dois être folle!