|The trio, photo @ Evan Zimmerman|
Kevin Puts' The Hours has a lot going for it. It's an adaptation of a beloved book and movie. Puts' music is always listenable and often lovely -- unlike many contemporary opera composers, Puts believes in soaring melodies and set pieces. The Met has assembled an all-star cast -- Renee Fleming (Clarissa), Joyce DiDonato (Virginia Woolf), and Kelli O'Hara (Laura) are fine singers. The heavy themes (the creative process, suicidal ideation, AIDS, sexuality, same-sex relationships) are all presented in a tasteful manner. And last but not least, the whole run is a box office hit, with the Met jacking up prices to $250 and above per ticket.
|Kelli O'Hara, photo @ Evan Zimmerman|
|DiDonato and chorus, photo @ Evan Zimmerman|
|The overly busy chorus, photo @ Evan Zimmerman|
The other day I saw a Broadway revival of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson. That is a long, wordy play with a run-time almost as long as The Hours, but the crackling dialogue, strong acting and expert pacing made the hours fly by. Even when nothing overt was "happening," the tension between Berniece and Boy Willie made every scene gripping. It never felt like a slow slog. (FYI: go see this wonderful revival with Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington, a hilarious Ray Fischer, and Danielle Moore before it closes in January!)
|Ketelsen and Fleming, photo @ Evan Zimmerman|
The cast is pretty wonderful. Their acting is not early as specific as the film (I mean, hard to compete with Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman), but they put the characters across well. The voices of the three principal women are distinctive enough that one can mentally switch right away between the three different storylines. Renee Fleming's voice is plush and soothing, with a top that still soars. Kelli O'Hara's voice is bright and high, suitable for her role as an unhappy, super-traditional 1950's housewife. Joyce DiDonato's voice pulsates with a strong vibrato that in other music can be distracting but in this opera matches Virginia Woolf's mental torment.
|The scenery, photo @ Evan Zimmerman|
I don't know how much this opera will stay in the repertoire. Despite its many strong attributes, I feel like this opera wastes too many notes. There is a beautiful, moving ending, but it is a long slog to get there.