I had seen this production in 1992, I believe. The production was by John Dexter, designed by William Dudley. My strongest memory of seeing the show at that time was the chorus "Now is the moment", when the entire cast girds their loins for a battle against a French ship within its sights (the setting is 1797, when, quel surprise!, the British were fighting the French), and the pre-Lepage machinery (which worked flawlessly **cough cough**) caused the expandable HMS Indomitable, like a current-day toy space ship/race car/Malibu Barbie beach house, to expand to its fullest extent in the largest nautical erection you will see this side of the USS Intrepid Museum.
|Daszak, Gunn, Croft|
Photo by Ken Howard
© 2012 The Metropolitan Opera.
The performance itself, you ask? Honestly, the singing and acting in all cases were so fine that I actually spent more time thinking about the story, the symbolism, the music. I wished I had a score* and had studied it deeply. (Frankly, I wished I had the vocal and acting chops to sing the role of Captain Vere!) I was so focused on the Iago/Scarpia archetype in Claggart (I wouldn't have been surprised had he sung "Billy, mi fai dimenticare Iddio" at the end of his soliloquy), the Pontius Pilate archetype of Vere (ditto Pilate's Dream from Jesus Christ Superstar), and the Christ-like archetype of Billy. Vere's struggle between the duty he has loved and served all his life and the longing to save Billy is the central conflict of the opera.
|John Daszak as Captain Vere|
NY Times photo by Chang W. Lee
It's not easy to keep track of the smaller roles. I have written in glowing terms before about the handsome Elliot Madore, and he again impressed as The Novice's Friend. (Is that how the poor lad is forced to list it on his resume?) The Novice himself was portrayed with a light, plaintive vocal quality and a palpable misery by Keith Jameson. The three officers Mr. Flint, Mr. Redburn and Lieutenant Ratcliffe (or as I like to call them, Patty, Maxine and Laverne) were nobly portrayed by Kyle Ketelson, Dwayne Croft and Ryan McKinny. Squeak, Mr. Claggart's henchman, was squeaked by Scott Scully. Met veterans Allan Glassman and John Cheek deserve praise for their portrayals of Red Whiskers, an impressed man, and Dansker, and older, wiser seaman.
Once again, the Metropolitan Opera Chorus deserves accolades as passionate as anyone else on stage--much more passionate than some I've seen on that stage. The men of the chorus, along with supplemental members and boys of the children's chorus, gave a stunning performance of Mr. Britten's challenging music. The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, under the aforementioned David Robertson, also met the extremely high standard we have come to expect from them.
I was delighted to run into dear Lucy, who posted her impressions about the opera before I did. Paul also posted his before I did. Glad to finally read them, now that I've finished this, and see that we all have similar opinions about the performance and production.
*Did you know the piano-vocal score retails for for over $100?! Sheesh!