Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Jesus: 1; Fun: 0
Actually I take back the headline, maybe. Thing is, Thais is one of those things that flips around on you at the last moment. You know, like Dancer in the Dark, where you sit there for two hours going "this is fucking unbearable" until it finally dawns on you that it's a comedy. (Come on, anyone who can watch that little boy hand Bjork his broken glasses without laughing has a heart of stone.)
So that's also kind of true of Thais, yeah. I think so. I spent two and a half acts writhing in my seat at having to watch a pious denunciation of women, sex, living in the world, and having a nice place to live. And then suddenly it's the last scene and Thomas Hampson is jumping around like a puppy going "wait, wait, you can't die! I just realized you're hot!" and Renee Fleming is like "fuck it, you should have said something before you made me burn all my LaCroix. Ta ta, cruel world!" At that point it's so clear that the whole thing is virulently anti-clerical satire that it's hard to be upset.
Still, the Met's production is, it must be admitted, a bit joyless. I think this is actually a production that premiered in Chicago in 2002ish with the same principals, and one would be forgiven for wondering if the physical production showed up wrapped in a bow with a note that said "good luck with the staging!" Direction was not greatly in evidence, the crowd scene at the end of act whatever (tired. deal.) was one of those things where everyone's like "hey, stop her, she's getting away. Shit, there are pages of music left, and there is absolutely nothing to stop me from stopping her myself. Shit." For instance. The design itself is attractive in a dramatically quite generalized way. The "is it the desert or is it a dinosaur sized Ruffles potato chip?" effect is used to much greater effect in Santo Loquasto's Salome set, as my less-dour-than-I companion pointed out...
It seems to me the singing was all about what you'd expect, but a bit routine. Hampson sings this stuff well, if a bit woollily. There didn't seem to be toooo much Captain Kirking around, but it may be because the role is preposterous and impossible to overplay.
TH: So what's my motivation in this scene?
Imaginary absent director: You are a boring fucking zealot. Same as the last scene. And the next one.
His French I am temped to term a bit indistinct, but am also willing to be challenged on that, since my own is hardly expert. As always, he looks like a rollicking lay.
Fleming actually benefits a bit from the same impossible-to-overplay factor, perhaps, but the laugh-wait-sob at the end of Act I pushed the envelope. It's just that stylistically, Thais brings out some of her better tendencies, and this allows the glamor of her portrayal to seem organic rather than painted-on, as it can in some roles. The role goes higher than you think it's going to, and at this point it's not effortless for the big RF, but she doesn't hold back, and for that we're grateful. What came off best for both singers were low key moments like the duet in the desert and Fleming's less glitzy aria, the name of which I'm not going to google right now. Michael Schade assisted ably, but honestly I like his voice a lot more in Mozart, you know?
Someone is going to have to tell you about the fashion part, and it is not going to be me.
Think that's going to have to wrap it up, as it is late late late. Still intending to write about Tristan, and possibly the Sondheim show at the Public. (The one where the cub gets the twink, clearly a work of astringent realism...)