The Met Opera on Virginia Woolf’s time for The Hours – News – Ôlyrix

The Metropolitan Opera of New York offers the lyrical creation “The Hours”, composed by Kevin Puts on a libretto by Greg Pierce, adapted from the novel by Michael Cunningham and the associated film, in an ambitious production, at the crossroads of aesthetics and the arts: the journey, between opera and musical comedy, of Virginia Woolf and women artists.

This new production signed Phelim McDermott with the pharaonic means of Metropolitan Opera House allows him to attack The Hoursa novel by Michael Cunningham published in 1998, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and adapted into a film by Stephen Daldry in 2002, whose opera takes up here the aesthetic codes, the plot and the text of the screenplay by David Hare (reworked by Paul Cremo and Greg Pierce), as well as some musical elements from the score of Philip Glass (also awarded for his film music).

The Hours take as a fulcrum Mrs Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf, through three levels, three temporalities and three destinies of women, passing from one to the other constantly, which is a technical feat on an opera stage. The show then follows the doubts of Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman in the film, Joyce DiDonato in this opera), writing her novel and coping with her own psychological difficulties, as well as a reader of Mrs DallowayLaura Brown (Julianne Moore – Kelli O’Hara) stuck in her life as a housewife of the 1950s and trying to escape it through reading, and finally the heroine of Virginia Woolf herself, Clarissa Dalloway, reincarnated as a Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep – Renee Fleming) New Yorker of the early 2000s, and reproducing the exact day of Mrs Dalloway, as the hours turn until the death of her friend Richard (in reality Laura’s son), HIV positive.

Three sets (Clarissa’s kitchen, Laura’s, and Virginia Woolf’s office) to which are added Laura’s hotel room and Richard’s apartment, form as many huis-clos of the film, which turn and slide , superimposed or on the contrary isolated, on the width, but also the depth or the height of the scene of the Met, according to the narrative and musical stakes of the opera.

This opera of strong and fragile women at the same time, fighting to exist in a world – sentimental as professional – which escapes them is carried by three well characterized voices. Renee Fleming is a modern Meryl Streep in (re)dress, taking up the codes of the character of Clarissa from the film version with warmth and voluptuous timbre. However, she prefers to highlight a certain cerebral line and sound, sometimes lacking a little power, characterizing her character with a relative coldness. The emphasis on a certain intimacy, with a lot of musical delicacy, especially in its attacks and sound recordings also makes you want to see this voice let itself go to a greater emotional overflow (but certainly remains in the image of the character) .

© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera

Her soprano colleague Kelli O’Hara portrays with force of conviction her character of Laura, Madame Bovary in the American style, a sensitive housewife stuck in a life as a mother that does not suit her. Powerful and intense in each of her interventions, the singer doubles a slightly nasal tone with great dynamism in the movement of the phrasing, with radiant highs. The scene in the Hôtel Normandie is thus particularly poignant, the rare intensity certainly sometimes tending towards a loss of sound control, and some slightly garish highs, but which at the same time makes it possible to understand the true psychological and vocal profile of Laura. .

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Kelli O’Hara, Renée Fleming and Joyce DiDonato – The Hours (© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera)

Virginia Woolf marries the features of Joyce DiDonato, whose mezzo-soprano voice brings nuances to this score. The timbre is recognizable by its enveloping warmth, with a sound pickup from above, mixing its crystalline high harmonics with the support of its low resonances (even if its investment also diminishes control in the last moments).

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Kelli O’Hara & Joyce DiDonato – The Hours (© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera)

These three dominant female voices face supporting roles that contribute to delimiting the different temporal spaces of the opera. Sally, Clarissa’s companion is interpreted by the mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, which offers resonances mixing treble and bass, with a timbre pulling towards the nasal. Unfortunately, the opera, like the film or the novel, makes him a completely secondary character.

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Kelli O’Hara, Renée Fleming & Denyce Graves – The Hours (© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera)

During her day, Clarissa meets Walter, a writer played by the tenor Tony Stevenson, whose interventions sound more like vocalized replicas. Its timbre, also nasalized, with a rather intense head voice, is therefore mixed with an oral spontaneity which contrasts a little too much with the held warmth of Renee Fleming.

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Tony Stevenson and Renée Fleming – The Hours (© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera)

Clarissa also meets Barbara, the florist, played by Kathleen Kim. The soprano takes over the stage with impressive ease, her voice being particularly powerful, clear and ample in the treble (her solo reminiscent of the treble of the queen of the nighta bit forced in features and with variable intonation, but which also conveys the extravagance of the character).

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Kathleen Kim & Renée Fleming – The Hours (© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera)

The other two male characters with whom Clarissa evolves are former lovers Richard and Louis. The tenor William Burden who interprets this one chooses a style absolutely musicalthus mixing the narrative content of his text with a vocal dynamism, which plays high-pitched resonances as if by small bursts.

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William Burden, Renée Fleming & Kyle Ketelsen – The Hours (© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera)

But the central male character is indeed Richard, for his thwarted love affair with Clarissa. Kyle Ketelsen here represents the illness of the character by playing on dry sounds but from which however his bass-baritone voice transpires in the resonances bass he works while mixing the breath. Its constant and faithful interpretation is however limited by a certain lack of power, which the wide vibratos are not always enough to compensate for.

The scenes with Laura also play with different characters, including her husband Dan, and her son Bug. Dan Brown is portrayed by Brandon Cedel, enthusiastic bass-baritone, which brings a little joy on stage. His cavernous although sometimes dry tone gives character to his rapid interventions, and forms a balance with Laura. Bug (Richie) is a nice surprise in the person of the young Kai Edgar who performs all his parts with solidity, efficiency, and by offering a completely convinced interpretation. The particularly accurate intonation thus highlights the childish nuances that are still very audible.

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Kelli O’Hara, Brandon Cedel & Kai Edgar – The Hours (© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera)

The three children Julian, Quentin and Angelica are interpreted by three Broadway seeds: Atticus Ware with efficiency and already a vocal roundness, Patrick Scott McDermott with slightly weak highs, while Lena Josephine Marano deploys them with a typical pinched placement.

Nelly, the maid, lacks a bit of power with the mezzo Eve Gigliottialthough it shows resonances interesting bass, and an undeniable physical commitment. More withdrawn in Kitty, Sylvia d’Eramo compensates with a certain dynamism in its attacks, with a soprano voice with warm resonances. She also plays on the breadth and warmth of her voice to embody Vanessa, Virginia’s sister and accomplished mother.

Sean Panikkar offers in Leonard, husband of Virginia Woolf, a rather surprising voice take, from the back, which gives a vocal character then playing between resonances cavernous low end, almost like a bass, and higher pitched bursts. His interventions are ample and powerful, with an interesting vibrato but sometimes lack precision in the diction.

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Sean Panikkar & Joyce DiDonato – The Hours (© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera)

Last character, the man under the arch / the janitor John Holiday, does not light the fire vocally but goes through all of his atypical interventions with harmonious vocalizations with a crystalline timbre, while bringing real poetry to the different scenes. The poetry also comes from the dancers (choreography byAnnie B Parson), which populate and inhabit the stages, but which sometimes also blur the subject a little, and the stage of the Met, quickly overloaded by the sets and its multiple characters.

the Choir also multiplies the number of characters on stage(s). In this opera highlighting women, the sopranos are distinguished by a beautiful full sound, the altos playing on resonances and rhythms, for an often very delicate ensemble. The male voices notably lack bass and distinction in their speaking, the tenors being far too discreet. For this scenic world premiere, the chef Yannick Nezet-Seguin then sticks to a sober musical interpretation of the opera he had already conducted in an orchestral version in Philadelphia last March. The pit is therefore effective but set back, without real brilliance, although there are moments of harmony between voices and keyboards (marimba and piano mainly have solo parts assured with great delicacy).

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© Evan Zimmerman – Met Opera

The public in particular socialite New Yorkers, who rushed to the Met for this crowded premiere, joyfully applauded this resolutely modern production and enthusiastically hailed this American-style opera, with references and motifs relating as much to Broadway or Hollywood as to the world of Virginia Woolf.


The Hours will be broadcast on December 10 live within the retransmission season in cinemas around the world

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The Met Opera on Virginia Woolf’s time for The Hours – News – Ôlyrix