Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Perhaps inside the comically awful Stephen Wadsworth production of Iphigenie en Tauride there is a great Robert Wilson production trying to get out. The erasing, and even drowning, of all connection and contrast by a uniform overlay of quasi-dramatic plastique works for Wilson as much as it (unmistakably present here) makes nonsense of Wadsworth. But then, the semi-new Met show (Seattle debuted it earlier this season) is far from the point where the Wilson gestalt would appear and work. It would, for one thing, have to abandon Thomas Lynch's handsomely literal set -- which would be a pity, as this is the best part of the presentation -- and the occasionally goofy but commendable costumes of Martin Pakledinaz. More importantly (and positively), it would require that the three principals -- Iphigenie, Oreste, and Pylade -- not constantly (well, in between randomly striking stock poses of agony) swoon into and paw each other and even the goddess Diana (!). For Wilson's art, like the Greeks', respects and even fetishizes the space the tragic stage opens up between the individuals thereon. And rightly so: not only truth but stage sense is in accord, as such space is the necessary barrier against which the characters' struggle to stay connected and whole finds force. Otherwise, as here, you get kitsch.

Of course, one can do Gluck's dark opera in an un-Greek, un-Wilson, etc. way, as dark melodrama. But this requires not only a production cleaned of all fluffy stock gesture (not just for singers and chorus -- a depressingly large amount of choreographer Daniel Pelzig's contribution falls under this rubric too) but a sureness of dramatic line and response that neither the director nor his leading man (Domingo, as ever, substitutes a stagger and raised arm for engagement on the stage while showing a still-amazing voice) evidence. Only Susan Graham seems prepared to chart such a pared-down, moment-to-moment course, but she is both weighed down by the aforementioned plastique and given little to work with by castmates. (Paul Groves, as he did in the last Domingo vehicle, just seems bemused amid this dramatic mess.)

It's too bad, as debutant conductor Louis Langree (known here for his Mostly Mozart work across the plaza) led a remarkably vivid musical evening.

UPDATE (11:50AM): It occurs to me that my mention of the "erasing [of] connection and contrast by a uniform overlay of quasi-dramatic plastique" isn't exactly plain English. So I offer the words of a correspondent making more or less the same point:
[The] singing was great, but the action on stage was so high pitched and melodramatic throughout, that it was difficult to follow the narrative arc of the story or get emotionally involved in the characters' problems. Instead of /\ it was all just /

1 comment:

  1. So this is one time where i should just close my eyes and/or be glad of partial view?


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.