Stage Director

The Trilogy – Juilliard Opera Center (2008) –

Tricks of a Titillating Triptych

November 2008

The production team of the Metropolitan Opera’s The Damnation of Faust has the duty to walk across the street and see how video projection should be done. The trio of operas by the Juilliard School is hardly as famous at the Berlioz conception at the Met, and the Juilliard budget is probably pocket change for Gelb Incorporated. But the Juilliard production possess one asset which the Met staff never took into consideration: They have respect for the operas they are presenting. And the graphics, video, special effects, and lighting actually enhance and do not distract from the music and stories.

Each of the three operas has a distinct character, yet the single set, with only minor furniture changes but some very, very beautiful holographic changes-was magnetic. The direction meant a lot of people falling on their derrières, and one character doing a John Cleese-like “funny walk,” but the absurdity was part of the triumph. The stories were simple, emotional, well sung, and the diversity showed taste, understanding, and, most of all, fun.

The third piece-everybody’s favorite-left nothing to be desired. It was never maudlin or sentimental, but had an honest depth. The video projections in the back were sometimes illustrative, sometimes dominating, sometimes almost unseen. Almost unconsciously, we went from pastoral village scenery to the most beautiful forest of Russian poplars. And at the climax….well it was done with taste and emotion.

The singers, who appeared in several roles, were top-rate, all under that most experienced conductor James Conlon. It was his idea to play the operas one after the other. His rationale was not quite convincing. However, the production was-and is-most convincing. These are three operas, and the inventiveness to make them come vibrantly alive.

Harry Rolnick,

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