Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

He Ain't Heavy

February 13, 2011

Susan Graham and Placido Domingo
Photo: Ken Howard/Met

Saturday brought Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride to The Metropolitan Opera in a revival of the company’s successful 2007 production. Almost everything from the prior run of the show has been left unchanged. All three stars in the cast are back including Susan Graham, Placido Domingo, and Paul Groves. Director Stephen Wadsworth was again on hand to guide his large, dark, and periodically goofy vision of the story. There was still a very naturalistic approach to reenactments of the numerous dream sequences in the plot. There were still rather ridiculous dance sequences from the Scythian troops in Act I, and celebrating Greeks in the opera’s finale. And there were still some extraneous plot additions including the all but risible emotional rollercoaster that Iphigénie pantomimes in the production’s closing scene where she first rejects and then accepts Oreste’s love given his evil deeds.

But if there is anything that prevents this revival from being a repeat success, it is the one significant change that’s been made. This time around the conductor is not Louis Langrée, but the American Patrick Summers. Summers is a respectable and dependable opera conductor. He’s well known to this house and the members of this cast. He’s game for just about anything and manages to provide satisfying and well-paced performances in an array of works. However, Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride is not one of them. Much as I recall from his outing with Graham in this opera in San Francisco in 2007, there is a particular lack of delicacy. He bounds through the score with a bit too much force and at times seemed indifferent to some of the vocal detail this cast can muster. Granted, some of this might be ascribed to a lack of adequate rehearsal time. There were a few moments where the timing between orchestra and cast seemed to get away from him, but the bigger issue was lack of nuance.

The title role still fits Graham like a glove. And while she seemed rushed at times, most notably in her big aria “Ô malheureuse Iphigénie,” she sounded warm and certain throughout. Paul Groves sounded comfortable as Pylade without any strain. As much as I love Placido Domingo, it feels like he’s slumming here in a bit of luxury casting as Oreste. And while all three vocalists displayed the kind of interaction that comes with having done these roles together on several occasions before, the production does seem to weigh them down a bit. Repeatedly, when things get going, there is some bit of dramatic business that seems to mar things. For example, Wadsworth seems unsure of what to do with the homosexual subtext of the work, barely keeping this most intense of platonic loves between Pylade and Oreste outside of parody. But all in all, this is Graham’s show. It’s a role she has made her own in the last several years and if you haven’t seen her in it, it's worth the visit. Iphigénie en Tauride runs through March 5.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter