Sunday, November 16, 2014

political theater

If there was any benefit to the Met in canceling the HDcast of The Death of Klinghoffer, perhaps it was forcing people who would rather have gone to the local millionplex to forego their cup holders and leg room and go down there. At any rate, the last performance was packed.

No doubt by now you're all familiar with the ruckus that has dogged this opera since its inception (if not, here's just this production's first round, as reported for the ENO run back in 2012). So has the Met exposure, and the resulting public discussion, finally moved the discourse into a more reasonable (not to say fact-based) frame? Or is Peter Gelb right now passing out the champagne flutes and saying "Well, that was fun, let's never do that again."

Although I'm placing my bet on the latter horse, I'm also hoping they screw up the courage to run it again, because I'd like to give the production the benefit of some doubts.  This was not a set that worked well from the nosebleeds (last row of the Balcony, in this case), as pretty much any production dependent on background projections does not. I'm guessing the more aesthetically abstract (read meaningful) elements the production team had in mind were predicated on stage action taking place against those backgrounds. Since we in the chicken seats didn't have that visual order, we were sort of left with overly literal staging plus some video. Unfortunately, this opera -- and in particular Alice Goodman's libretto -- loses something, maybe a lot, in the hands of literalism.

On the other hand, no complaints about the music. Conductor David Robertson deserves a plaque somewhere at the Met for services to contemporary opera and a medal for grace under pressure -- I last saw him on the podium for Nico Muhly's Two Boys in 2012 and his Met debut was, if I'm not mistaken, the ten minute opening night of The Makropulos Case in 1996. Dude probably took one look at the opening night Klinghoffer protest and went "Whatever, bring it on."

By this afternoon there was one protester left, doggedly holding the beachhead on the Columbus Avenue steps, double-sided placard in each hand, having what appeared to be a reasonable discussion with a couple of patrons. John Adams, who had returned from safe and weird and mostly non-screaming Berkeley for the last performance, had just gotten another huge ovation.

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