Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dr Atomic in Chicago

For me there was a disconnect between what I was hearing and what I was seeing. The music of Adams was rich, inventive and full of foreboding. The choral sections were particularly strong and well-sung. I thought the sound design was involving and even the anti-climactic ending was satisfying to me. The baritone (almost a tenor at times) of Gerald Finley was always in the right place, and his performance of Donne's tortured poetry, standing in front of the curtained bomb, was riveting. Good singing from the rest of the cast as well, especially from soprano Jessica Rivera as Kitty.

The work however failed to cohere for me. The staging was great in spots but studded with arbitrary and overly fussy elements. I was not impressed with the balletic bits, which reminded me more of Sharks and Jets (old in their time), and seemed to be deployed to give some needed physicality to a static script.

The libretto was the problem, and what was happening on the stage was too often uninteresting in spite of the profundity of the issues. It seems as if Peter Sellars the stage director couldn't tell Peter Sellars the librettist when enough was enough...A good example was in the lengthy bedroom scene in Act I. But there was so much good music and such a core of drama (can we say Apocalypsis) underlying it all that it's hard to be too hard on the thing. It's just that this opera will not be on any top ten of mine any time soon.

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