Friday, June 25, 2004
This is obviously not your usual opera plot although contemporary opera is definitely breaking all the traditional barriers. As the performance went on, it occurred to me that Tony Kushner’s ANGELS IN AMERICA and gay composer John Corigliano’s opera THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES may have been strong influences on the play and the opera made from it. In the former, the hospitalization of a man afflicted with AIDS inspires a series of variations on life, politics and the human condition. In the latter, the execution of Marie Antoinette is a central incident in a gay-themed work. DuBarry’s execution is central to the acceptance of the inevitability of death by Lewis, the main character in GRACE. DuBarry becomes the angel of death who leads him out of life and into the world beyond.
Composer Rudenstein is an accomplished orchestral composer and the pick-up orchestra of twenty Boston-area free-lancers played the often beautiful score superbly under Tim Steele’s direction. Vocal writing comes less easily to Rudenstein and there was virtually no differentiation of characterization in the vocal lines. I found out from co-librettist Carmichael that the opera had been trimmed from two and a half hours to one and a half, while a friend in the cast told me that Music Director Steele had worked mightily to make the vocal score useable by the singers. The result is uneven but improves markedly as it goes on. Act one is still too long by about ten minutes. Act two, from its lovely prelude featuring wonderful woodwind solos and proceeding strongly to a powerfully moving final ensemble, is markedly better and very well worth waiting for.
An ensemble cast of six excellent singers performs strongly under Billy Butler’s direction. Co-librettist Langlois designed the serviceable set and quite extraordinary
costumes. One performance remains, Saturday night the 26th of June. Tickets are available by calling the Cambridge Y or at the door.