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2010, New York Met, Hamlet

Hamlet

Hamlet-credit-Elinor-Carucci
Photo: Elinor Carucci

“Simon Keenlyside, the Ralph Fiennes of baritones”  NY Times
“Keenleyside’s (sic!) portrayal seemed completely genuine”  NJ.com
“Keenlyside, whose portrayal of the Danish prince is something that straight actors could learn from” classical review
“But it was not an opera singer we were watching; it was Hamlet.” ConcertoNet.com


Composer: Ambroise Thomas
Libretto: Michel Carré and Jules Barbier after a French version of Shakespeare’s tragedy by Dumas père and Paul Maurice
Venue and Dates: Metropolitan Opera House, New York
16, 20, 24, 27 (mat), 30 March, 2, 5, 9 April 2010
Conductor: Louis Langrée
Directors: Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser
Sets: Christian Fenouillat
Costumes: Agostino Cavalca
Lighting: Christopher Forey
Performers:
Hamlet : Simon Keenlyside
Ophélie : Marlis Petersen / Jane Archibald  5 and 9 April. (Natalie Dessay had to cancel
due to illness)
Gertrude : Jennifer Larmore
Claudius : James Morris
Laërte : Toby Spence
Ghost of Hamlet’s father : David Pittsinger
Polonius: Maxim Mikhailov
Horatio: Liam Bonner
Marcellus: Matthew Plenk
Gravedigger: Richard Bernstein, Mark Schowalter
Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera

Notes: This production is owned by the Grand Theatre of Geneva. For performances at Covent Garden, the composer rewrote the final act, adding a tragic conclusion that is closer to Shakespeare’s original end. The Met will be presenting the opera with its revised ending, where the Prince dies.

Must see attractions at the Met

Ambroise Thomas’s French romantic jewel Hamlet, absent from the Met’s repertory since the late-nineteenth-century days of Jean Lassalle, returns (Mar. 16) in a 1996 production from the Grand Théâtre de Genève, as a vehicle for the dynamic talents of Simon Keenlyside and Natalie Dessay. There is luxury casting in the roles of Claudius and Gertrude, played by Met veterans James Morris and Jennifer Larmore. Louis Langrée, who has become an integral part of New York’s musical life as music director of the reinvigorated Mostly Mozart Festival, conducts.

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What the critics say

Mike Silverman (Associated Press) published in several newspapers

Melancholy Hamlet returns to Met after 113 years
NEW YORK — Ambroise Thomas’ “Hamlet” was last performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1897, and it’s easy to see why more than a century passed before its revival.

Even with two outstanding singing actors in the lead roles, the work exudes at best a fragile charm, a refinement typical of French grand opera that is worlds apart from the visceral excitement Verdi summoned for his adaptations of Shakespearean tragedy, “Otello” and “Macbeth.”

On Tuesday night, the Met brought back “Hamlet,” with one of the crucial ingredients for success — the fine English baritone Simon Keenlyside as the tormented hero. He first sang the role in this production in Geneva in 1996, and his interpretation is riveting. He couples athletic agility and grace with a brooding intensity as Hamlet confronts his father’s ghost and then resolves to kill Claudius, the uncle who usurped the throne.

Blessed with an intrinsically beautiful voice, Keenlyside brings a tender quality to his love duet with Ophelia, a bracing bravado to his drinking song, and a sense of barely controlled fury to his encounter with his mother, Gertrude. His voice, while not huge, projects well into the vast Met auditorium, with only an occasional straining on some high notes.

His partner in previous runs of this production was the French coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay, and she had been scheduled to take the part of Ophelia at the Met. When she canceled because of illness, the company brought in the German soprano Marlis Petersen, who performed something of a heroic feat. She finished another engagement in Vienna on Friday, flew to New York on Saturday, then had all of two days to rehearse before opening night.

Under the circumstances, she did a creditable job, though she did not appear to have had time to develop much chemistry with her co-star. Vocally, she is a little underpowered in her lower register and her sound tends to harden on her highest notes. But the role of Ophelia is really all about her extended mad scene, and here Petersen had some lovely moments of pathos, even if she didn’t always project a sense of her character’s derangement. She wasn’t helped by the production, which moved the setting from a riverbank to a room in the castle and made Ophelia die by stabbing herself instead of drowning.

Some other aspects of the production, by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, worked better: the opening scene with the chorus advancing from darkness for the coronation; the play of lights on the ramparts when Hamlet first sees the ghost; the spooky pantomime of the play-within-a-play that prompts Claudius to reveal his guilt; the gravediggers hacking into the stage floorboards to prepare for Ophelia’s burial.

But the ending is a mess. Thomas’ original version has Hamlet survive to be crowned king. He wrote an alternate finale more faithful to Shakespeare, but this Met production conflates the two in a confusing and dramatically implausible way. First he and Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, fight a brief duel (it’s staged more as an embrace) and apparently wound each other mortally. Hamlet survives just long enough to mourn Ophelia and then, at the renewed prompting of his father’s ghost, stabs Claudius through the heart and dies.

In supporting roles, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore as the fearful, guilt-ridden Gertrude all but chewed the scenery and hit her high notes with aplomb. (Her wig emphasized a balding forehead and made her look like one of Disney’s wicked stepmothers.) Veteran bass James Morris sounded gruff and anguished as Claudius. Debuting tenor Toby Spence made a terrific impression in his two scenes as Laertes.

Louis Langree conducted the orchestra, which sounded uncharacteristically ragged at the outset, but soon settled down.

Anne Midgette, Washington Post, 17 March, 2010

Hamlet comes to the Met
I first reviewed “Hamlet,” the opera, in Geneva in 1996 for Opera News, with Simon Keenlyside in the title role, Louis Langrée in the pit, and a production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser in which unnecessarily peripatetic, deliberately shabby set flats by Christian Fenouillat rolled around in a range of attempts to divide up the black void of the stage. Last night, I had the strange time-warp experience of seeing the same production, with Simon Keenlyside in the title role and Louis Langrée in the pit, except that this time, it was at the Metropolitan Opera. If Natalie Dessay, who sang the role of Ophelia in Geneva and was scheduled to sing it at the Met, hadn’t canceled, I would have almost forgotten where I was.

I didn’t go back and reread my thoughts from 14 years ago until after the show, and I was glad I waited, but didn’t feel my views about either the production or the opera had changed all that much. I have a fairly high tolerance for the particular brand of confection that is the music of Ambroise Thomas (due in part to a “Mignon” I saw in Santa Fe at an even more impressionable age), and, particularly at this point in my life, an even higher threshhold of tolerance for the various supposed outrages that are perpetrated on classic plays in their translation to opera. Which is to say: no, it’s not Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” but the outlines are recognizable, and there’s a lot of pretty music: deal with it.

Thomas eliminates a number of the peripheral characters, opens with a chorus and the wedding of Gertrude and Claudius (but then goes back and gives us the ghost on the ramparts); expands Ophelia’s mad scene into something satisfactorily operatic, and (like Verdi in “Don Carlo”) waffled with the ending so that there exists both a happy and a sad version. The Met split the difference: the king’s ghost appears at the end as a deus ex machina, and Hamlet kills Claudius (start of the happy version); but then, instead of being crowned king himself, he dies (the sad version, written for Covent Garden a year later).

We’ve all grown. In 1996, Keenlyside was making his debut in the role; now, his voice is fuller and darker, so that the jolly drinking song he breaks into in Act II lies a little high for him, but he makes a wonderful dark chewy sound in the middle to lower ranges of the part. He still, however, incarnates the character’s heavy adolescent rage, though (if I remember correctly) he’s able to do so with greater economy of motion. Langrée, meanwhile, sounded more authoritative, though far from heavyweight; there was some scrambling in the brass fanfares from the balconies early on, but it was an exception to a very competent and engaged performance.

The production is perfectly adequate. I am not sure it’s lasted so long, and traveled so far (it’s also been seen at Covent Garden) on the strength of its quality alone; rather, it’s a viable, unoffensive production of a seldom-done opera (“Hamlet” was last staged at the Met in 1897) that is familiar to the soprano for whom the work is most often mounted, Dessay. Dessay’s cancellation was certainly a disappointment to many, but it cleared the way for Marlis Petersen, a German soprano who was both less polished and more vulnerable in the role than Dessay’s usual presentation these days. At first (in her Act I love duet with Hamlet) there was a threat of weakness, but she sang very beautifully in her mad scene (which sounds oddly exotic, faintly presaging Lakme’s Bell Song), with clear, jewel-like tones that were not only lovely but had a quality of innocence in keeping with the character. It wasn’t a barnstorming performance — Dessay usually sets out to grab you from the first moment she’s on stage, for better or worse — but ultimately an effective one.

Some of the supporting roles were excellent. David Pittsinger was properly stentorian as the ponderous and frequently one-note ghost; and the tenor Toby Spence (making his Met debut) was an impetuous, emotional Laertes with a penetrating voice. Casting Richard Bernstein and Mark Showalter as the Gravediggers certainly gave vocal heft to a very minor moment at the start of Act V (perhaps calculated to rouse and refocus the audience, after Ophelia’s mad scene, in the course of a long evening). Liam Bonner, who was part of the Wolf Trap Opera ensemble in 2008, stood out in another small role, Horatio.

Gertrude and Claudius were almost too skillfully cast with two singers possessed of considerable stage presence but past their vocal primes. James Morris was loud, patchy, and pushed as Claudius, and Jennifer Larmore was slightly shrill as Gertrude.

“Well, we’ve seen it,” said a colleague as we left the theater. To my ear, long though it is, it’s an opera worth hearing and seeing. And my “Hamlet” rediscovery this season is far from over; the opera is coming to the Washington National Opera on May 19th, though mercifully in a different production. This one, however, can be seen when the Met’s live HD broadcast to movie theaters takes place on March 27, with an encore presentation on April 14.

Anthony Tommasini, New York Times,17 March 2010

This Prince: What a Piece of Work
The Metropolitan Opera under general manager Peter Gelb is defining itself through the choice and quality, however debatable, of its ambitious new productions. Yet bringing successful existing productions of overlooked works to the Met is just as important to the company’s artistic mission, not to mention a safer bet. And few operas have been as overlooked as Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet.”

On Tuesday night, for the first time in 113 years, “Hamlet” played at the Met, thanks to a road show of a production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser that was introduced in Geneva in 1996. Musically “Hamlet” is no masterpiece. But this five-act French opera, which had its premiere in Paris in 1868, is a refined, subtle and, at its best, affectingly understated work, qualities that came through in the sensitive and magisterial conducting of Louis Langrée.

The opera is also a star vehicle for the right baritone in this punishing title role. Simon Keenlyside, the Ralph Fiennes of baritones, was the acclaimed Hamlet when this production was introduced, and he dominated the evening here. His singing was an uncanny amalgam, at once elegant and wrenching, intelligent and fitful. Handsome, haunted and prone to fidgety spasms that convey Hamlet’s seething anger and paralyzing indecision, Mr. Keenlyside embodied the character in every moment, and you could not take your eyes off him.

The soprano Natalie Dessay, this production’s original Ophélie, was to have joined Mr. Keenlyside here. She withdrew from the entire run because of illness and was replaced by the German soprano Marlis Petersen. The opera world has been abuzz recently with reports of Ms. Petersen’s whirlwind last-minute rehearsal schedule. She missed the dress rehearsal on Friday because she was performing in Vienna. The Met sent a coach there to work with Ms. Petersen, who flew to New York on Saturday, then endured a 30-hour period of costume fittings, stage rehearsals with piano and one abbreviated orchestral run.

By Tuesday night, however, this trouper was ready. A lovely woman with a bright, alluring and agile voice, she seemed immersed in a role that, to judge from her beautiful and emotionally vulnerable singing, she clearly relishes.

All in all, this production and performance make as strong a case for “Hamlet” as you are likely to hear. If you are going to knock Thomas’s work, the silliest charge is that the opera trivializes and violates Shakespeare, to the point of providing a happy ending for the story. After his just killing of big, bad King Claudius, Hamlet is crowned as the new savior king amid communal jubilation. This was hardly unprecedented; for generations after Shakespeare’s day, it was common in English theater to provide happy endings for his tragedies.

In some ways Shakespeare’s play, which ends with dead bodies all over the stage, is more melodramatic than Thomas’s work. This is an uncommonly literate opera; its music frames and supports the text with intelligence and subtlety. The opera has been dismissed as a work that merely provides musical decoration for Shakespeare. But the score’s reticence is its selling point. If anything, the music too often stays out of the way of the story. Thomas never astonishes you with an ingenious musical stroke. He did not have that gift.

The drinking song in Act II is as catchy as “Libiamo” in “La Traviata,” yet effectively ambiguous. The scene in which Hamlet first sees the ghost of his father is chilling, with the echoes of the wedding banquet in the background and the restrained exchange between the two characters. The music for the troupe of players, with a slinky melody performed on saxophone (an enticing new instrument in Thomas’s day), is deliciously creepy. And there’s more.

This simple, well-traveled production sets the story in an indeterminate place. Agostino Cavalca’s costumes vaguely evoke the time of the opera’s composition. Christian Fenouillat’s sets essentially consist of two tall, curved, movable walls, with red-splotched painted interiors and streaked stone exteriors.

When Mr. Keenlyside first appears, dressed in what look like a rumpled long-sleeved undershirt and dingy trousers, his suspenders dangling from his sides, all scruffy and unshaved, he achingly conveys Hamlet’s impotency in the face of this crisis.

That this Hamlet is so consumed with himself makes the moments when he exposes his yearning all the more moving, especially the Act I love duet with Ophélie, in which Mr. Keenlyside buries his head in Ms. Petersen’s lap, amid the billowing folds of her creamy white dress.

The high point of Ophélie’s role is the mad scene. For me the elaborateness of the music, with its requisite coloratura roulades and passagework, seems too forced. But Ms. Petersen sang it impressively, looking every bit the jilted bride, sitting alone in a fleecy white dress amid the bouquets and remnants of her nonstart wedding to Hamlet.

The mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore brought earthy intensity to the role of the tormented Gertrude. In a prim royal gown and with her face framed by an eerily high hairline, she looked like some spectral figure out of Bergman’s “Seventh Seal.” The gravelly singing of the veteran bass James Morris, as Claudius, was appropriate to the character.

The versatile British tenor Toby Spence, in his Met debut, excelled in the short but crucial role of Laërte. And the stentorian bass-baritone David Pittsinger commanded the stage in his few appearances as the Ghost, dressed in ragtag robes like some prophet wandering the desert.

For all the stylish taste and craft that Thomas brought to this work, after a while this understated music begins to seem thin. Still, the Met is rendering a service to its patrons by presenting it. In decades of operagoing I had never seen a staged production.

By the way, this Met “Hamlet” does not end happily. For the 1869 British premiere of the work at Covent Garden in London, Thomas was persuaded to rewrite the ending to have Hamlet die after all. Until now this production had always used the happy ending. But for the Met the creative team made some trims and combined elements of both endings so that the ghost reappears, but Hamlet falls dead atop Ophélie’s corpse. It was an effective compromise. And really, what does it matter?

Ronni Reich, NJ.com, March 17, 2010

Hamlet’ review: The Bard arrives at The Met
Frailty, thy name is…prima donna?

A few weeks after local audiences saw mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves withdraw from Opera New Jersey’s production of “Carmen,” only to find substitute Kirsten Chavez singing the role at least as well, the Metropolitan Opera has had to contend with a last-minute cancellation of its own.

Last night at the premiere of the new production “Hamlet,” soprano Marlis Petersen took over the role of Ophélie for the indisposed Met favorite Natalie Dessay. Petersen, who had only a few days of rehearsal, performed admirably. But one couldn’t help but wonder what the production might have been with the original cast.

When the Metropolitan Opera decided to bring back Ambroise Thomas’ “Hamlet” after more than 100 years, the choice may have been less about recovering a forgotten jewel from the vault and more about showing off serious star power.

The French composer’s 1868 opera provides a rangy showcase for the title character and a highly affecting mad scene for Ophélie – an ideal vehicle for baritone Simon Keenleyside and Dessay. Keenleyside (sic!) proved an optimal choice. But his co-star was missed for her nuanced singing and dramatic abandon as well as her established connection to Keenleyside. The two had already performed and recorded the work.

It’s hard to say, though – if even all singers had fit perfectly in their roles and if the chemistry had been strong – whether or not the Keenleyside-Dessay pairing would have been enough to carry the opera.

It would be easy to take issue with Thomas’ “Hamlet,” which doesn’t adhere to Shakespeare. There’s no Rosencrantz or Guildenstern, Ophélie stabs herself following a mad scene, the ending has been changed, and only the basic story of revenge and collapse remains.

But Thomas’ music simply isn’t as strong as music by other composers who have taken on the Bard, from the obvious Verdi, to Gounod, who, like Thomas, held fast to French traditions, and Bellini, who, like Thomas, presented a looser take. “Hamlet” drags, offering vocal lines that usually suit the text but that don’t tend to be especially shapely or evocative. Drinking songs and rousing choruses — though well sung here — feel detached from the action and obligatory.

The exception is Ophélie’s death, which receives its own Act. It incorporates all the shuddering, high-lying runs of a bel canto scena as well as touching passages from her earlier duet with Hamlet and a kind of ritualistic, tribal-sounding song as she contemplates the knife. Petersen sang with pathos and impressive agility. Her light, frothy soprano suited the character’s fragility, but Thomas’ frequent leaps to the top of the range sounded challenging.

Keenleyside made a star turn as Hamlet. His powerful presence and full, hardy voice worked equally well for fearsome confrontation and, scaled back, to convey fear or introspection. He sang beautifully and authoritatively — when the character exploded impulsively, Keenleyside’s portrayal seemed completely genuine. If his scenes with Petersen were a little cool or forced in their first show, that is likely to change as the production continues.

The production was subdued but effective, with memorable contributions from directors Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, set designer Christian Fenouillat, costume designer Agostino Cavalca and lighting designer Christopher Forey.

Instead of grand royal trappings, the sets consisted mainly of moving curved castle walls splotched with red or other colors, depending on the scene. Ophelia’s mad scene took place not by water, but in her apartment, which resembled a deconstructed hotel lobby with a few armchairs and bouquets dotting the stage and a chandelier hanging curiously low. The stiffness of social conventions came through especially in Cavalca’s angular, full-skirted dresses in wedding-white for Ophélie and putrid mustard and grape for Gertrude.

The proper but somehow “off” quality of the stage was made all the more compelling when the calm was broken. Hamlet climbing on the table at the dumb show and dousing himself with a jug full of bright red liquid made for a thrilling conclusion to Act II.

Supporting performers included mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore as a scene-stealing Gertrude, tenor Toby Spece debuting as a fresh-voiced Laërte and venerable singers James Morris as Claudius and David Pittsinger as the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

Louis Langrée led the Met orchestra with command despite occasional mishaps. He and the directors received a mixed reception when they came out for applause. The audience seemed divided as to whether to boo or, well, not to, but in the end, the bravos overpowered the dissenters.

AP El Universal, 16.3.2010

Translation will appear as soon as possible

La última vez que Hamlet de Ambroise Thomas fue presentada en la Opera Metropolitana fue en 1897 y, tras su reestreno, no es difícil saber porqué se habían tardado tanto.

A pesar de contar con dos actores destacados en los papeles principales, lo más que puede emanar es un encanto frágil, un refinamiento típico de la ópera francesa que está a años luz del visceral Verdi y sus adaptaciones de Otelo y Macbeth.

El martes, la Met presentó Hamlet con el barítono inglés Simón Keenlyside como el héroe atormentado. Keenlyside interpretó el personaje por primera vez en Ginebra en 1996 y su versión es fascinante. Combina su agilidad atlética y gracia con una intensidad frenética cuando confronta al fantasma de su padre y se decide a matar a su tío Claudio, quien ha usurpado el trono.

Su compañera en las versiones anteriores de esta producción era la soprano francesa Natalie Dessay, y también estaba considerada para ser Ofelia en la Met, pero canceló por enfermedad. La compañía la substituyó con la alemana Marlis Petersen, que tuvo una actuación casi heroica: terminó otro compromiso en Viena el viernes y viajó a Nueva York el sábado, finalmente tuvo dos días para ensayar.

Ante esas circunstancias tuvo un estreno bastante aceptable, aunque al parecer no le dio tiempo para desarrollar una buena química con Keenlyside.

A Petersen le faltó el desenfreno total de su personaje, pero la producción no le ayudó mucho, pues cambiaron el escenario del río a una habitación en el castillo e hicieron que Ofelia muriera de una puñalada y no ahogada.

Otros aspectos de la producción de Patrice Caurier y Moshe Leiser funcionaron mejor: el juego de luces en la muralla cuando Hamlet ve por primera vez al fantasma; la obra dentro de la obra que lleva a Claudio a revelar su pecado y las bromas de los sepultureros al preparar el entierro de Ofelia.

Pero el final es un desastre. En la versión original de Thomas, Hamlet sobrevive y se convierte en rey. El compositor también escribió un final alternativo que es más fiel a la versión de Shakespeare, pero la producción de la Met revuelve ambos en una forma confusa y dramáticamente inverosímil. Hamlet se enfrenta en un duelo con Laertes, el hermano de Ofelia, en el que los dos aparentemente quedan heridos de muerte. El príncipe sobrevive sólo para lamentar la muerte de Ofelia y tras una nueva aparición del fantasma mata a Claudio de una puñalada en el corazón y finalmente muere.

Manuela Hoelterhoff ,www.bloomberg.com, 18 March 2010

Hamlet in Raincoat, Bloody Ophelia, Where’s Denmark?
To flee or not to flee? That was the question when the Metropolitan Opera staged Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet” Tuesday night after dropping the piece for more than a century.

Back so soon?

Oh, mon dieu. What a tepid epic this is, stretching perhaps 15 minutes of musical inspiration over five acts and nearly three hours of agony and mystery.

Why is Hamlet wearing a rain coat? What’s that seat cushion doing around Ophelia’s waist during the Mad Scene? What happened to her lake? Where’s Denmark? What is this feeble old production staged by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser for Geneva in the 1990s doing at the grand Met?

Couldn’t the company’s able carpenters have hammered up a little castle all their own?

Walls designed by Christian Fenouillat moved all night long to no dramatic end. As revelers clumsily crowded in to celebrate the wedding of Claudius and Gertrude, they looked like they arrived via the Met’s costume storage closet.

The Players hired by Hamlet exhibited the joi de vivre of war refugees, murkily lit to complete the mood by Christophe Forey.

Funereal Pace

In the pit, the usually lively Louis Langree conducted at a funereal pace long before Simon Keenlyside, our Hamlet, collapsed after a strenuous night spent trying to breathe some life into this dodo. He madly poured wine on his head, threatened mother Gertrude with a jagged piece of wood and threw himself against a wall so forcefully he bounced off it. (I assume the wall hadn’t just moved unexpectedly).

All the while, the baritone sang splendidly, though the big showpiece went to soprano Marlis Petersen. Donning Ophelia’s weeds with not much notice for an indisposed Natalie Dessay and commuting from Vienna where she appeared in the premiere of Aribert Reimann’s “Medea,” Petersen showed off cool nerves, good looks and an assured coloratura technique.

In this staging, Ophelia (Ophelie, here) is ordered to cut herself to pieces with a knife while singing madly. Perhaps she could be implored to trim the score?

It’s probably worth seeing since you won’t be around at the next presumed outing 100 years from now. And the rest of the cast shows the Met at its best: Jennifer Larmore an expressive Gertrude, James Morris, still booming impressively as Claudius and Toby Spence making a most auspicious appearance as Laertes.

James Jorden, New York Post, 18 March 2010

Hamlet’ made in haste

The drama of Ambroise Thomas’ “Hamlet” pales beside the behind- the-scenes maneuvering that got it to the Met on Tuesday.

After Natalie Dessay called in sick two weeks ago, the Met scrambled to book another Ophélie — Marlis Petersen — but the German soprano was singing in Europe until a few days before the premiere.

And so, while a standby rehearsed with the “Hamlet” cast, the company flew a music coach to Vienna to help Petersen cram. It then whisked the singer to New York where, barely 24 hours before curtain time, she jumped into a dress rehearsal.

After all that, it would be gratifying to declare Petersen’s debut a “star is born” moment. But given the last-minute fireworks, she was pretty much a nonstarter, her Ophélie hovering on the cusp of inaudibility in midrange and shrill on the highest notes.

Happily, Shakespeare’s tragic hero was in the expert hands of Simon Keenlyside, whose compact, flinty baritone made poetry of even the blandest phrases of Thomas’ music. His smoldering acting exploded into the evening’s only moment of exciting drama in the mad scene closing the first half.

Toby Spence’s debut in the role of Laerte suggested a fresh lyric tenor, and bass David Pittsinger boomed with authority as the Ghost.

Old pros James Morris (Claudius) and Jennifer Larmore (Gertrude) sounded, unsurprisingly, professional but old. Larmore’s “Mommie Dearest” overacting garnered a few unintentional laughs during Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s grimly minimalist production.

Amid dreary plastered walls and drab Victorian costumes, it fell to conductor Louis Langrée to restore some sense of the romantic to the 1868 score. His expansive leadership blossomed gorgeously in the last-act lament “Comme une pale fleur.”

George Loomis, the classical review, 19 March 2010

The Met serves up inspired advocacy for Thomas’s flawed yet fascinating “Hamlet”

It is easy to find fault with Ambroise Thomas’s opera Hamlet, and many have seized the opportunity to do so. The sheer idea of basing an opera on one of Shakespeare’s most complex plays aroused critical skepticism, especially in English-speaking lands, and details like a swaggering drinking song for the hero and the onstage death of Ophelia—after singing a mad scene no less—only exacerbated the hostility. As a matter of principle, the trappings and conventions of French grand opera—Hamlet had its premiere at the Paris Opéra in 1868—would seem to stifle any meaningful exploration of the issues raised by the play.

Yet it is safe to say that many who witnessed the premiere of the Metropolitan Opera’s fascinating new production of Hamlet on Tuesday evening found the experience closer to watching the Shakespeare play than they ever thought possible. Thomas may have been audacious in his choice of subject, but he also took his musical-dramatic task seriously. Although the libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier expands the Hamlet-Ophelia relationship into something approximating an operatic love interest, the librettists did a thoroughly professional job of pruning the play to libretto proportions, while retaining much of its psychological dimensions.

That psychological dimension clearly meant a lot to Thomas. He devised a musical language for it that emphasizes declamation and arioso-style writing over notable tunes (of the type his Mignon abounds in). The music is by no means consistently inspired, but it is effective. Thomas’s treatment of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, with its broken vocal line and punctuating accompaniment, is a good example. Thomas probably thought that whatever tunefulness was lacking would be compensated for by the mandatory choral numbers and ballets. These portions of the score are severely trimmed at the Met, yet given the dramatic power of the production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser and its not inappreciable length (three hours and twenty minutes, including one intermission), the omissions are not cause for complaint.

Just about every other aspect of the evening earns high praise, starting with Simon Keenlyside, whose portrayal of the Danish prince is something that straight actors could learn from. He really looks the part, scruffily dressed in an overcoat while the others are richly attired in fashions from roughly Thomas’s period (costumes by Christophe Forey). His Hamlet is intensely physical, whether curling himself up in proximity to Ophelia or stomping on the banquet table when all hell breaks loose following the play-within-the-play that Hamlet orchestrates to smoke out his stepfather Claudius’s guilt. And Hamlet’s music sounds as though it could have been written for his handsome baritone voice, which has ideal weight for the music. Keenlyside’s phrases in the melodic duet with Ophelia, Doute de la lumière emerge with succulent beauty and his fine French helps to keep the declamatory writing lively elsewhere.

This polished characterization has had a long genesis. The production, borrowed from the Grand Théâtre de Genève, dates from 1996; Keenlyside was Hamlet and the Met’s conductor Louis Langrée was also part of the initial team, which went on to perform the opera elsewhere, including London and Madrid. Keenlyside’s fine work typifies the excellent Personen-Regie that Caurier and Leiser achieve overall. Sometimes the simplest gesture is charged with tension, as when Hamlet walks slowly toward Claudius and Gertrude in Act 2 and you sense the two striving to remain composed while withering internally. Christian Fenouillat’s sets, darkly lit by Christophe Forey, consisting of faux-marblized panels in a vaguely art nouveau style, are also a plus, and they swing quickly into place to avoid breaks between scenes.

Natalie Dessay was also a member of the original cast and would have sung Ophelia at the Met but for reported illness that caused her to withdraw. Marlis Petersen, who is scheduled for Lulu later in the season, filled the breach and with captivating results. Like Dessay, Petersen has a well rounded lyric-coloratura voice that lacks any suggestion of shrillness. In her Act 2 aria she handled the octave leaps to B flat and sang with welcome energy in its cabalette. It augured well for the Mad Scene, a favorite of coloratura sopranos since the days of Christine Nilsson, who created the role of Ophelia. Petersen sang it most affectingly and with limpid tone, but the piece does go on, and it was a questionable decision to have Petersen appear alone onstage rather than in the presence of others, as with Lucia’s Mad Scene.

Another outstanding characterization comes from Jennifer Larmore, whose strongly sung Gertrude brought to mind another frazzled operatic mother, Clytemnestra. As her consort Claudius, James Morris sounded tired by comparison, but the excellent lyric tenor Toby Spence, in his Met debut, scored as Laertes and David Pittsinger sang sonorously as the Ghost of Hamlet’s father.

Louis Langrée’s conducting befits his long experience with the opera in his convincing pacing and care for instrumental detail—Hamlet includes arresting passages for saxophone. Langrée may not convince you that Thomas’s opera is consistently great musically, but he contributes decisively towards making this Hamlet the theatrical success that it is.

Martin Bernheimer, FT.com, 18 March 2010

Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet is to Shakespeare what Gounod’s Faust is to Goethe. The tragedy is skimmed, perked up, candy-coated. The music swoons, thumps and simpers. But the pretty thing does work on its own superficial terms.

The Met has never shown much interest in the prospect of a melancholy Dane singing. The company last ventured Hamlet in 1897, and the “new production” unveiled on Tuesday actually wasn’t new at all. It originated in Geneva in 1996. Both London and Barcelona saw it in 2003.

As staged by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser with designs by Christian Fenouillat (sets) and Agostino Cavalca (costumes), it isn’t a memorable production. Time and place are fashionably vague. The scenery consists of a couple of curved walls pushed round by visible stage-hands. Timid abstraction rules.

The central attraction is Simon Keenlyside, who sings the title role superbly, with tireless, wide-ranging, sensitively inflected tone and keen expressive urgency. He plays the prince, however, as a very neurotic, very common commoner. His wardrobe features sloppy slacks, a presumably sweaty undershirt and the inevitable trenchcoat. At the banquet he manages to douse himself with wine and wrap himself in a tablecloth. Picturesque symbolism? Of course. Madness? Yes. Heroic nobility? No.

Marlis Petersen, his lovely Ophélie, flew in at the last minute in the wake of Natalie Dessay’s cancellation. She looked properly fragile, performed bravely under duress and sang poignantly, some brittle coloratura and strained top notes notwithstanding. Jennifer Larmore, a fine lyric mezzo savouring a change of Fach, made the guilt-ridden Gertrude resemble Cruella de Vil in a hoop skirt. More important, she balanced grotesquerie with pathos. James Morris contributed a vocally rusty Claudius. Toby Spence introduced a plangent Laérte. David Pittsinger boomed darkly as the paternal ghost. After a shaky orchestral start, Louis Langrée enforced sweeping propulsion in the pit.

Thomas originally ended his formula-grand opera with Hamlet smiling at adversity. The composer had second thoughts, however, and on this occasion the baritone managed to die just before the curtain fell. Against Gallic odds and oddities, the Met brushed up its Shakespeare.

David Finke, Theatremania.com, 19 March 2010

There’s a convincing reason why Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, which is back on the Metropolitan Opera stage for the first time in over a century, is not often performed. While it has its alluring points, maybe even enough of them to allow audiences sufficient enjoyment to offset the steep price of admission, it’s simply not very good.

Still, the current production, directed by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, brings us the opportunity to hear Simon Keenlyside in the title role, a performer whose full-throated baritone is matched by his acting prowess, and provides a fancy showcase for the excellent soprano Marlis Petersen (who was hustled in to replace the ill Natalie Dessay) as the eventually mad Opehlie.

The music — in a Giuseppe Verdi mold that might have been conducted with a pinch more force by Louis Langree — is quite listenable. It rises to melodic and dramatic heights in an early Hamlet-Ophelie love duet, a drinking song for Hamlet and male chorus, the volatile Hamlet-Gertrude mother-son confrontation and, most notably, in Ophelie’s mad scene, which takes up the entire fourth act.

As that indicates, however, librettists Michel Carre and Jules Barbier have taken liberties with Shakespeare’s original text. Sadly, they’ve cheapened the passionate and nuanced narrative into a 19th-century melodrama. Moreover, no Hamlet partisan is going to settle for a retelling in which Polonius is reduced to a walk-on, in which Rosencranz and Guildenstern are completely excised, Fortinbras is never to be seen or mentioned, and Ophelia bloodies herself before sinking in that fatal pond or where there’s no swordplay and no poisoned cup that gets into the wrong hands. Worse still, Hamlet’s four great soliloquies are also edit victims, with only part of the “To be or not to be?” rumination left.

While Jennifer Larmore as a vocally strong Gertrude (albeit one hampered by a wig starting high on her forehead), James Morris as an occasionally wobbling Claudius, and Toby Spence as an impressive Laerte all make worthwhile contributions, the two stars are undoubtedly the main attraction. The wiry Keenlyside’s emotional take on the Danish prince is, among other things, an argument for his appearing more often on the Met stage. What Petersen does during that fourth-act mad sequence in the way of flower-strewing and coloratura glittering is something to behold. (And measured against the aria-time that Thomas gives Hamlet suggests that the composer favored sopranos over baritones.)

On the down side, the physical production by Christian Fenouillat is, to put it mildly, nothing to write home about. It consists mostly of two tall, light-colored, curved walls that are pushed and pulled around and have high doors in them that no one ever uses. The sets are so non-specific that Hamlet and Gertrude appear to have their set-to in a castle corridor where anyone might pass by.

Not to worry about Polonius and that arras, though. There’s no arras and no stabbed Polonius. He remains intact for the finale, which is more than can be said about Hamlet.

Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2010

Much ink has been spilled over the non-Shakespearean plot oddities of Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet” (1868)—in its original version, for example, Hamlet is alive at the end. However, the Met’s new production, first seen in 1996 at the Grand Théâtre de Gèneve, makes it clear that the opera’s main problem is its pedestrian score. Compelling direction by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, an excellent cast (including one 11th-hour replacement) and the sensitive, idiomatic work of conductor Louis Langrée made the best possible case for it, but it wasn’t enough.

The librettists, Michel Carré and Jules Barbier, smoothed Shakespeare into operatic shape: There’s a conventional love duet for Hamlet and Ophélie in Act I, and Hamlet overhears Polonius (who otherwise has little to do) admitting his complicity in the murder plot. Hamlet has a feigned mad scene to conclude Act II; Ophélie has a real, and very flashy, mad scene and suicide in Act IV. Ambiguity is jettisoned in favor of operatically constructed confrontations that might have been great if Verdi had written the music.

The production’s edgy look helped counteract the formulaic music. Christian Fenouillat’s spare set—several tall, curved, blotchily painted walls that changed position to suggest the interior and exterior of the castle at Elsinore on an otherwise empty stage—Christophe Forey’s pinpointed lighting, and Agostino Cavalca’s unadorned sculptural costumes created an atmosphere of comfortless menace. The directors similarly stripped down the action, skillfully focusing confrontations, blocking chorus scenes choreographically, and staging the wordless performance of the Players with creepily stylized mime.

The only reason to stage “Hamlet” is as a vehicle for its stars, and baritone Simon Keenlyside was mesmerizing in the title role, making the Prince a cauldron of smoldering anger, continually on the brink of explosion. His furious confrontation with Gertrude (Jennifer Larmore), for example, was brilliantly staged as an elemental mother-son battle of hatred and love. The other principal draw of this staging was to have been soprano Natalie Dessay, but she was ill, and the Met brought in Marlis Petersen, who was slated to sing the role later in the run. Despite having to miss all the regular rehearsals, Ms. Petersen acquitted herself admirably. Though understandably stiff in the first several acts, she sang the elaborate mad scene with bright, expressive coloratura while managing the flower-tossing and wrist-slicing of the staging with great aplomb. Ms. Larmore brought a rich-toned mezzo to Gertrude’s guilt (wraith-like makeup and a wig that gave her an abnormally high forehead added to the effect), James Morris’s gravelly tones were well suited to Claudius’s brutal nature, tenor Toby Spence sounded youthful and passionate in the brief role of Laërte, and bass David Pittsinger was a suitably weighty presence as the Ghost.

Margarida Mota-Bull, musicweb-international.com, 27 March 2010

French composer Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, alongside Mignon, was one of his most successful operas, acclaimed by critics and public alike. Though Thomas was eclipsed by some of his contemporaries even during his own life time, his work remained in the repertoire of the Paris Opera until the early years of the 20th century. However, after his death in 1896, his operas have been mostly neglected or even forgotten. While Thomas was perhaps not as original as some of his contemporaries, like Gounod or Bizet, he had a special gift for melody and an excellent understanding of dramatic effects; both of which are clearly demonstrated in his Hamlet: One only needs to look at Ophélie’s mad scene and the “play in the play” section.

The libretto to Thomas’s Hamlet was written by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier, based on the play by Shakespeare. However, Carré and Barbier changed many aspects of the original tragedy and appear to also have used, as a source, a stage adaptation by Alexandre Dumas père, which has a happy ending: Hamlet does not die and becomes king. This deviation from Shakespeare was heavily criticised at the time (and even today), particularly though not surprisingly by the British; so much so that Thomas wrote a second (tragic) ending, where Hamlet dies, specifically for the Covent Garden premiere in 1869.

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is of course one of the greatest masterpieces of English literature; however, to really appreciate the opera one must not look at it as one does at the play. Shakespeare followed the principles of Elizabethan drama when he created his tragedy but Ambroise Thomas and his librettists logically adhered not to these but instead to the elements of French opera at the time: A happy ending was not only traditional but also expected by the public. If put in this context, the opera can be enjoyed as the masterpiece that it truly is, both in musical and dramatic terms. This production of the Met chose to use the second ending, i.e. the one the composer created specifically for London that finishes with Hamlet’s death.

Saturday’s live transmission in HD was introduced, as often in previous broadcasts, by American superstar soprano Renée Fleming. Perhaps because she has hosted such events so many times before, she seemed far more relaxed and spontaneous in her approach, making it all the more pleasant. For example, right at the beginning she suddenly went silent in the middle of a sentence but calmly, without losing her smile or composure, accepted a couple of queue cards handed over by somebody waiting by the stage side; later, during the interval, when she interviewed Simon Keenlyside (who sang Hamlet), she directed a funny, good-humoured comment at him by saying, “Well, I’m glad we’re wearing matching colours”, referring to the fact that she was wearing a garish, bright pink top and he was totally drenched in red paint, after emerging from the final scene at the end of Act II.

Fleming informed us, during the brief introduction to the evening’s performance, of two important facts: one that the Met staged this production of Thomas’s Hamlet specifically with British baritone Simon Keenlyside in mind for the title role, and two that French soprano Natalie Dessay who had been scheduled to sing Ophélie in all performances, had to be replaced by German soprano Marlis Petersen, only a couple of days before the premiere, due to illness.

The Met staging of Thomas’s Hamlet was produced by the famous duo of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, well known to audiences of the Royal Opera House for their productions of Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Il Barbiere di Siviglia among others. It is an atmospheric production, rather economical in terms of the settings, which are scarce but efficient (designed by Christian Fenouillat); the emphasis being on the characters and their inner torments rather than what surrounds them. It predominantly uses dark colours, mostly black or grey, which contrast, on the one hand, with the pure white of everything related to Ophélie thus accentuating her innocence, and on the other with the vivid red of the blood, either as the result of a fatal wound or the symbol to the fratricide at the centre of the plot: these aspects were cleverly enhanced by sober but attractive costumes and lighting (respectively by Agostino Cavalco and Christophe Forey). To my mind, as a whole, it was an excellent interpretation of the opera and the story, outstandingly serving the drama, the music and the singers.

Simon Keenlyside fully justified his casting as Hamlet and the fact that the production was created especially for him. He was simply superb in a role that fits him like a glove. It was a dazzling, complete performance: flawless, beautiful, expressive singing and extremely accomplished acting. Keenlyside’s tone is warm, rich and colourful in all registers of his voice, and his command of French very nearly perfect, with correct pronunciation and clear diction. He played the tortured, conflicted Hamlet in such a convincing manner that, after the initial few minutes, one easily forgot that it was a great baritone singing Hamlet but instead had the impression that one was seeing Hamlet, expressing his torment in song. He truly deserved the rapturous standing ovation that he received at the end from the audience present at the New York Met and, though more restrained, from the public in the Barbican cinema.

German soprano Marlis Petersen did not face an easy task with Ophélie, as last minute casting to replace the indisposed Natalie Dessay. Not only is Dessay perfect for the role with her small frame and frail appearance, she is also a consummate actress, celebrated amidst other things for her masterful delivery of several of opera’s mad scenes. On top of this, Dessay possesses an impeccable, crystalline coloratura and she is French, therefore using the language in a manner that only a native speaker can. Marlis Petersen was undaunted however by all these facts; if she was nervous, she did not show it. She created a believable fragile Ophélie whom the audience easily empathised with, feeling her pain and confusion at Hamlet’s ambiguous behaviour towards her. Her tone is richer than Dessay’s and though perhaps a tad less crystal clear, it is sometimes warmer, which made the character more endearing, in the sense that one felt she needed protection. Her singing was accomplished and she has an assured coloratura; a fact that she demonstrated well during the celebrated mad scene, which she delivered in an outstanding manner. I personally thought that Petersen was a very worthy replacement and I do not think that Dessay could have done better.

The other great character in the opera is the one of Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, wife of the murdered King (Hamlet’s father), who knowingly marries the murderer: his brother Claudius. American mezzo Jennifer Larmore was magnificent in the role. Famed for her performances in the bel canto repertoire, due to a wonderful coloratura and an assured technique, she is also an excellent actress and injected the character with well judged dramatic intensity. On top of these qualities, she also has the presence and glamorous looks normally associated with royalty, which combined with the costumes (slightly more elaborate and striking than those of other characters) made her cut quite an impressive figure on stage. Her singing was as impeccable as it was beautiful and she was at her very best in the scene where Hamlet confronts his mother. It was delivered with great dramatic power; the interchange between Larmore’s Gertrude and Keenlyside’s Hamlet was not only beautifully sung but also very intense and emotional. It had great impact, definitely creating one of the highlights of the production.

As Ophélie’s brother, Laërte, British tenor Toby Spence did not have much time on stage yet he did have some difficult singing to deliver. While his voice still fades slightly in its highest register, he has considerably improved since last time I saw him, a couple of years ago, at the Royal Opera House, delivering a slightly disappointing Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Here, as Laërte, Spence gave a solid, convincing portrait of the loving brother and the betrayed friend: particularly good in his final scene when he fights Hamlet, accusing him of causing Ophélie’s madness and suicide.

Bass James Morris as Claudius gave a strong performance especially during the dramatically clever set up of the “play in the play” scene, arranged by Hamlet to expose his uncle as his father’s killer. David Pittsinger’s sonorous bass combined with striking make-up and lighting delivered an effective, imposing ghost of the murdered king and made a believable, vengeful spectre.

The other minor roles were also excellently performed, effectively supporting the drama and the lead members of the cast. The choir and orchestra of the Met were at their best and French conductor Louis Langrée demonstrated his class and profound knowledge of French opera, leading the musicians and the singers in a magnificent performance, technically unblemished and dramatically powerful. Langrée’s understanding of the voice as an instrument meant that he knew exactly when to be subtle and sensitive, as in Ophélie’s mad scene, allowing the orchestra to merely cushion Marlis Petersen’s singing; or when to unleash the power of the music, as in Hamlet’s confrontation with his mother, intensifying the drama, compelling the singers to deliver something special, which indeed they did.

As a whole, this was a production of the highest quality, with exceptionally good singing and outstanding acting. It was expertly directed for the screen by Brian Large who cleverly used more close-ups than usual thus highlighting the inner conflict of the characters and fully accomplishing the objective of producers Caurier’s and Leiser’s concept.

I enjoyed this Met live broadcast of Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet immensely. I can only express my desire that other opera houses will be encouraged by the Met and will follow in its footsteps to stage the work more often and finally give it the recognition it deserves.

David Abrams, www.musicalcriticism.com, 1 April 2010

3.5star

If you’re curious as to why it has taken the Metropolitan Opera 113 years to re-stage Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, you’ll need to look no further than the music.

Certainly, the mostly-attractive (if not lengthy) musical score has its moments. The love duet between Hamlet and Ophelia, the remarkable septet at the end of the second act and the celebrated coloratura passages in the famous “Mad Scene” can hold its own with the best that Verdi has to offer — as can Thomas’ handsomely orchestrated preludes and entr’acts. It’s just that there aren’t enough such “moments” to sustain the level of intensity that pervades the drama. Over the course of this three-hour and 20-minute opera, Thomas’ musical score earns its 15 minutes of fame, but little more. Do the math…

The libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier, adapted from Dumas’ version of the play, represents an obvious departure from the Shakespeare original — with the Bard’s thirty-odd characters truncated to just fourteen (counting the three mimes). Moreover, a number of the original subplots have been tweaked, altered or eliminated altogether. Still, the libretto to Hamlet merits serious consideration as a powerful drama within its own right, with sufficient character delineation of the principal roles and meaningful discourse among the characters (particularly with respect to Hamlet and his mother). This is Hamlet, all right — it’s just not Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The production staff of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, who first introduced the present version at the Grand Théâtre de Genève in 1996, adopted a minimalist approach to the sets, costumes and props that emphasizes the character-driven focus of Thomas’ setting. Christian Fenouillat’s set design, principally a two-piece ensemble of curve-shaped walls that move in circular fashion (by stagehands visible to the audience), depicts a barren stage devoid of ornaments and props — giving more an impression of the interior of a Calvinist Church than Elsinore Castle. In similar fashion, the dowdy and curiously featureless costumes designed by Agostino Cavalca (the male characters wear military-style boots and iron breastplates covered by trench coats) kept the listener’s attention focused more upon the story-line than the actors.

All in all, the drab amalgam of staging, scenery and costumes create a worthy (if not unwelcome) complement to the arioso-style musical language devised by Thomas that for the most part restrains the music so as not to supersede the dramatic action. This is, however, opera — and French opera, at that. Where are the beautiful melodies worthy of Gounod, Bizet and Offenbach?

Whatever you may think of the music, there’s little doubt that Simon Keenlyside, as the troubled title character, forged a credible-looking Hamlet whose charisma injected a degree of anima into the role.

Keenlyside’s handsome baritone was strong in voice throughout the performance, adding weight and substance to an already commanding stage presence. His tender delivery in the first-act Love Duet with Ophelia ( Doute de la lumière), the first theme of which returns like a leitmotif throughout the opera (including Ophelia’s Mad Scene), appeared earnest, heartfelt and genuine.

As an actor, Keenlyside brought intensity — although not a great deal of nuance — to his performance. Yes, he appears duly troubled and concerned throughout the production, but there are many faces of “troubled and concerned:” suspicious, confused, angry, cynical and vengeful. I wish we could have seen them all.

When in Act 2 Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius offers his hand in homage to the Prince’s deceased father, Keenlyside’s expression should rightfully appear cynical as he rejects the handshake and retorts, “his is cold and lifeless.” Moreover, I was hoping to see at least some degree of ambivalence on Keenlyside’s face when in Act 3 he tells Ophelia “get thee to a nunnery.” Also unconvincing was Keenlyside’s mannerisms during the Act 2 Pantomime and Finale, as he poured red wine suggestively upon his head (metaphor for the blood of his murdered father) in a forced and clumsy attempt to feign madness.

German soprano Marlis Petersen, in the tragic role of Ophelia, crafted a sympathetic heroine whose virginal white gown mirrors her character’s innocence and fragility. Originally a last-minute replacement for the indisposed Natalie Dessay when the production opened earlier this month, Petersen’s warm and expressive soprano and flexible coloratura obviates any need to mourn Dessay’s absence.

It’s interesting to watch Petersen on the big screen, where one can see her opening her mouth widely to shape and resonate the lovely sounds that come from her body. The “Love Duet” with Keenlyside was immediately appealing, with a colorful and malleable vocal delivery that allowed her to color the phrases to fit the meaning of the words, and her wide range of dynamics in the tender opening aria of Act 2 (Sa main depuis hier n’a pas touché ma main!) captured the necessary degree of vulnerability.

Naturally, all sopranos in this role will be judged principally upon their degrees of success in the celebrated “Mad Scene,” which takes up virtually the entire fourth act. The site of the delusional Petersen, barefooted and dressed in a wedding gown (with a childlike look on her face that resembled a bride abandoned at the altar who nevertheless preferred to remain in denial) was enough to evoke great pity and sympathy, and it was clear from the expressions on the faces of those sitting around me that they were moved, as was I, by her performance.

Petersen’s evocative coloraturas in the Waltz — with its rapid trills, large intervallic leaps and high register work — were quite good, although I was most impressed with her sensitive delivery of the delicate Ballade that followed (Et maintenant écoutez ma chanson).

Petersen’s suicide at the conclusion of the “Mad Scene” was, for the most part, staged convincingly. Still, I’m at a loss to explain the significance of the pouch she wore around her waist (it looked somewhere between a money belt and a poo-poo-cushion), or why her graphic self-mutilation was necessary or relevant to the production (Caurier and Leiser places Ophelia in her room at the castle instead of by the lake, and shifts her death from drowning to self-inflicted mutilation by a dagger).

Jennifer Larmore’s three-dimensional portrayal of Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, was the singularly most outstanding acting effort in this production and she remained in-character at all times, whether singing or reacting to another’s singing. Larmore’s rich and colorful mezzo-soprano shimmered in perfect harmony with her commanding stage presence and created some memorable musical moments — such as the lengthy decrescendo in the second-act Recitative and Duet with Petersen (Dans sons regards plus somber), which melted from a full-throttle forte to a delicate pianissimo at the duet’s conclusion. Moreover, she was the only character whose French diction was consistently intelligible.

Larmore’s multihued characterization of the Queen ran the gamut from manipulative (the Arioso in Act 2, where Gertrude persuades Ophelia not to leave the court following the latter’s rejection by Hamlet) to angstful paranoia (the Act 2 Duet, as Claudius tries in vain to convince her that Hamlet has not discovered the conspiracy that culminated in the King’s poisoning) to genuine contrition and remorse, as she throws herself before Hamlet begging for mercy in the mighty third-act “Closet Scene” Duet (Pardonne, hélas!). This number, the culmination of Hamlet’s complicated relationship with Gertrude that over the course of the first three acts rises to a fevered pitch and all but explodes during this climactic episode, is the emotional highpoint of the opera — and arguably Thomas’ most stunning dramatic, and musical, tour-de-force of his career.

James Morris’ poker-faced expression in his role of the murderous Claudius, like the aging bass-baritone’s tiresome portrayal of Jacopo Fiesco in the Met’s previous production of Simon Boccanegra, reduced his character to a one-dimensional figure hardly worthy of deeper inspection and further examination. Morris was clearly off-form Saturday afternoon — experiencing difficulty during the first two acts controlling a wobbly vibrato and struggling to stay on-pitch throughout his signature aria in Act 3, as he begs forgiveness from the brother he murdered (Je t’implore, ô mon frère!).

Making his Met debut in this production, Toby Spence as Laërte sang the role of Ophelia’s protective brother with a warm, pleasant tone and solid vocal presence, although the young tenor’s abrupt and clumsy transition from recitative to cavatina in the first-act Pour mon pays, en serviteur fidèle suggests he would do well to engage the services of a good coach. Still, Spence’s fifth-act Scene and Recitative, where he challenges Hamlet to a duel over his sister’s suicide, was suitably hotheaded and confrontational — a mood quickly destroyed by the staging of the duel itself: a lame, anti-climactic non-event that took all of three seconds, ending (remarkably) in the mortal wounding of both men.

Among the smaller roles, David Pittsinger as the barefooted Ghost of the murdered king dominated the stage during his brief but memorable entrances. “Kill Claudius before he can repent,” he urges Hamlet in a soberly-delivered chant, made even the more chilling through its pervasive use of monotone (perhaps Thomas believed that ghosts have limited tessituras). Also commanding attention was Richard Bernstein, the first gravedigger, whose booming bass and gesticulations lent credence to his character’s fatalist declarations on the subject of death and mortality. Bernstein, whom you may remember as Pietro in the Met’s recent production of Simon Boccanegra, is deserving of larger roles in future productions.

TV Director Brian Large’s skillful orchestration of the close-up camerawork kept Keenlyside’s facial expressions at the center of attention for much of the production, and adorned Petersen’s every movement during the Mad Scene (even the gratuitous carving of her breast and wrists).

In a nice touch visible perhaps only to the HD Simulcast audiences around the world, the cameras captured (with the help of Lighting Director Christophe Forey) the spooky image of the little hairs standing on-end alongside Pittsinger’s right arm as the Ghost clutched Hamlet’s neck and commanded him to “Kill Claudius before he can repent.” There was a serious omission, however, as the cameras failed to show one of the most dramatic moments in the opera: Hamlet’s snatching of the crown from Claudius’ head (“Down with the lying mask! Down with the empty crown!”).

Conductor Louis Langrée crafted a faithful interpretation of Thomas’ score that honored the composer’s wishes to keep the orchestra parked behind the singers, and his direction of the opening instrumental prelude crafted a dramatically potent foreshadowing of Hamlet’s torment that was to come.

Thomas saved some of his best writing for the instrumental preludes and entr’actes that precede each of the five acts, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (after some initial intonation problems between the high and low brass sections during the first-act Prelude) was outstanding during throughout the performance. The trombone section tutti unison passage that opens the third-act Entr’acte was exquisitely played, as were several individual efforts — such as the exquisite clarinet solo that opens the fourth-act, the smooth tenor trombone solo during the first-act Scene at the Ramparts, and the alto saxophone solo that signals the beginning of the Pantomime in Act 2.

A well-prepared and buoyant Metropolitan Opera Chorus sang its four-part harmony in celebration of Claudius’ marriage to the Queen (Le deuil fait aux chants joyeux) with assurance and poise and good balance among vocal parts, and successfully navigated the tricky a cappella section in the Banquet Scene.

Carole Carter, West Virgiania public broadcasting, 30 March 2010

I’d never seen Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, nor was I acquainted with the music, so you could say I started with a clean slate. I liked it.

Now, if you’re a raging Anglophile and/or don’t like anyone messing with your Shakespeare, don’t bother with this. I think it’s closer to the Dumas version of the story. Let’s just say, Thomas and the librettists took “liberties” with the plot and characters. This may explain why the opera didn’t inspire much interest early on – like for a century!

If the goal was to pare down the cast and eliminate the Bard’s web of plots however, this is a successful tale. The music was pleasant enough, although not memorable. I didn’t come out humming any melodies.

The production was spare and somber. The sets were high, dark curving walls that moved to provide a plethora of backdrops, often leaving the stage almost barren. This did allow for some effective lighting, throwing huge shadows on the walls. It probably played better on the screen than live on stage at the Met.

The chorus costumes were dark hues: black, grey, brown. Only the principals wore any color, and that was effective. While you usually don’t see stark white on stage, both the ghost of Hamlet’s father and Ophelia were dressed so. Of course, it made perfect sense for the ghost. Ophelia looked as if she was ready to be wed at a moment’s notice, which she was. And it showed up the blood really well. Oh yes, she doesn’t drown in the lake. She stabs herself. Several times. And of course, she negotiates quite an extended coloratura ‘mad scene’ at the same time.

One of the best qualities of the production was the acting and singing of the British baritone Simon Keenlyside as Hamlet. He was especially effective in this HD version which allows for those magnificent close-ups. He’s an astonishing presence on stage.

The coloratura Marlis Petersen was brought in after the original Ophelia canceled because of illness. The German soprano finished a run of Medea in Vienna and hopped a plane for New York with barely a week’s notice. She made for a very fragile and introspective Ophelia, but perhaps not as “mad” as expected from Natalie Dessay.

I particularly enjoyed the performance of mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore as Gertrude. She’s Claudius’ accomplice in this version (as is Polonius by the way). Her blood red, and mustard green/brown costumes were richly conspiratorial. She’s a scene stealer.

Toby Spence’s Laertes was a tenor relief in a sea of baritones and basses.

I understand this HD experiment has drawn great audiences. Even the Huntington Cinemark audience has grown, perhaps doubled in attendance since the first offering I saw last fall. One of the strong attractions is the cinematic quality, but it also has its drawbacks.

You see the singers in close-up, something that would never happen in the opera house. However, the voices are transmitted through audio equipment, and thus always heard and always in balance. You see only the director’s focus, rather than the expanse of stage of a full production. So in a sense these HD offerings are not totally “live.”

These qualities are particularly welcomed by younger audience members, accustomed to the wonders of cinematography. This may or may not result in a new audience for live opera however. It might also divert attention and funding from local productions. Only time will tell.

But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. There’s an encore presentation Wednesday, April 14 at 6:30 pm.. The final offering of this season is Renée Fleming starring in Rossini’s Armida – another unknown to me. Check ’em out!

Arlene Judith Klotzko, ConcertoNet.com

In the March cover article of Opera News, Simon Keenlyside repeatedly used the phrase “when it’s your time.” He’s had many important times in his career but, surely, his appearances in New York, first in a lieder recital and then in the title role of Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas have to be among the best. For him and also for us. At the Met, it’s exactly the right time for a consummate singing actor, especially if he also happens to be a Verdi baritone, a species that, alas, seems to be rather thin on the ground.

Keenlyside made his Met debut in 1996 as Belcore in L’Elisir d’amore. Since then he has sung Olivier in Capriccio, Marcello in La Bohème, Papageno in The Magic Flute and Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro. In some ways Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet is the most unlikely of vehicles for his most high profile yet Met appearance. The opera has not been performed at the Met by the Met since 1897. (In 1912, a production starring Tito Ruffo was presented at the old Met by the Philadelphia-Chicago Opera Company.) More recently, the New York City Opera, staged Hamlet in 1982, with Sherrill Milnes in the title role. The opera is certainly not as well known as Thomas’s Mignon.

This production was brought to the Met for two star turns by two star singers – Simon Keenlyside and, most especially, Natalie Dessay. Together, they have made rather a specialty of the piece since they debuted in the same production in 1996 in Geneva. They and the production then traveled to London and Barcelona where it was filmed for DVD release. Unfortunately, Natalie Dessay left the Metropolitan Opera cast two weeks before the first performance. She was replaced in rather dramatic fashion by Marlis Petersen, who arrived straight from an engagement as Medea in Vienna, a mere two days before opening night.

The production looked rather easy to transport. The set was simple, even minimalist, made up of two curved bare walls, which were moved around, sometimes by visible stagehands. The color scheme was muted, except for the brightly colored period costumes worn by most of the cast. Hamlet wore shabby modern dress and Ophélie a simple white gown. The set probably worked better in a smaller house than it did on the vast Met stage where it was virtually swallowed up.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is, of course, one of the cultural icons of western civilization. Thomas’s Hamlet is emphatically not Shakespeare’s. The divergence is more of an issue for Anglo-American audiences who will search in vain for Hamlet’s grand soliloquies, those meditations on mortality and the significance of human life that have resonated over the centuries. “To be or not to be” as “Être ou ne pas être” does appear here, but it lacks the existential angst that makes it so timeless. It’s a shadow of its former self. The ending has also proved to be problematic. In Thomas’s original ending, Hamlet did not die but lived to be crowned king. In the Met production, Hamlet dies after stabbing Claudius to death. The librettists did not aim at fidelity to the original source.

In fact, they turned Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy into a melodrama. While the greatest moments in Shakespeare’s play are Hamlet’s soliloquies, the most dramatically compelling parts of Thomas’s Hamlet are the confrontations. Two stand out – the first between Hamlet and the ghost of his father and then (in the highlight of this performance) the extended scene between Hamlet and his mother, Gertrude, which takes up all of act three. In the latter, Hamlet is conflicted. His grief and his anger (at his mother but especially his uncle Claudius) for the murder of his father are in Keenlyside’s portrayal palpable. But Hamlet also loves his mother and has sworn to the ghost not to harm her as he revenges the crime by killing Claudius.

Neither the music nor the texts have the profundity to make Hamlet tragic in the Shakespearean sense. But Simon Keenlyside spared nothing – vocally, dramatically, even physically. He went flat out in order to make his performance moving and gripping. He has a lieder singer’s sense of text and nuance – a gift for coloring words and establishing mood. In Keenlyside’s performance, nothing was lost or neglected. He made every note and word count. He combined this sensitivity to the small and subtle with an extraordinary theatricality in the best sense of the term. He was one hundred percent present and committed to the character, whether it involved throwing himself against a wall and actually bouncing off of it or drenching himself with blood red wine as he tried to evoke from Claudius evidence of his guilt. His physicality as a performer was always there – in his downcast posture and in a walk that became almost a shuffle. During the play within a play, designed by Hamlet to provoke a display of guilt by his uncle, Keenlyside lurked and skulked in the background. Despite the gripping goings on, our eyes were always drawn to him. But it was not an opera singer we were watching; it was Hamlet. After he learned of Ophélie’s death, a crowning blow to a life defined by loss, Hamlet’s will to live just seemed to ebb away. And so, after exacting his revenge on Claudius, he died, elevating melodrama to tragedy.

Marlis Petersen had a daunting task – a vocally challenging role, particularly the fiendishly difficult coloratura passages in her mad scene plus such a short amount of time during which to prepare. She sang with a lovely shimmering rich color in her middle range. But, in the mad scene, she had problems with the top, which was shrill. She also sang with spotty intonation and insufficient flexibility. And she was also oddly restrained. Her stage presence was rather stiff. Her singing seemed rather technical rather than a manifestation of her character. A character so clearly tragic should provoke our sympathy, but this was not the case. At least it was not so for me.

In contrast, Jennifer Larmore as Gertrude was superb vocally and dramatically. She was the only singer on stage who could approach Keenlyside’s level of engagement and thrilling dramatic intensity. James Morris as Claudius was vocally rough and patchy and sang with a pronounced wobble. But he was an effective actor, showing real grief and fear in his aria, “Je t’implore o mon frère,” seeking his dead brother’s forgiveness. As was the case with his performance as Wotan last season, he can certainly embody a role. In his Met debut, Toby Spence, was a fine Laerte, singing with ringing tone and acting convincingly. David Pittsinger was a marvelous ghost, a creepy spectral presence visually and vocally. Next door to the Met is the Vivian Beaumont Theater, where what is perhaps the greatest American musical, South Pacific, is being staged. Showing his amazing versatility, Pittsinger is alternating as Hamlet’s father’s ghost at the Met and as Emile de Becque in South Pacific.

The Met Chorus was predictably marvelous in its varying incarnations. The effect was majestic in the opening scene as the wedding guests processed across the stage. They were simply sublime in their haunting mourning chorus at Ophélie’s funeral. There are other lovely melodies in the opera– notably the beautiful “Doute de la lumière” which Hamlet sings to Ophélie. She then takes up the melody which recurs, most poignantly in her funeral scene. There is also Hamlet’s “Comme une pâle fleur,” gorgeously sung by Keenlyside, as his character tottered toward death. Thomas was also rather good at inventive and at times stunning orchestral touches. The saxophone solo was the most memorable of these. The Met Orchestra under Louis Langrée gave a fine performance that illuminated the shifting instrumental textures.

A final word on a special treat. Although I am always mindful of the depth and talent of the Met’s roster of singers, a bit of luxury casting still retains its capacity to stun. Here, the small roles of the two gravediggers were sung by Richard Bernstein and Mark Showalter. Their richly contrapuntal lines reminded me of the two armed men, the guardians of Sarastro’s realm, in Die Zauberflöte. I remembered that during a performance earlier this season, I was also struck by the beauty of the singing by the two armed men. Sure enough, when I went back to look, I found that one of them was Richard Bernstein. He’s a terrific bass baritone, with a large sonorous voice that is even from top to bottom. And he has such presence. It’s a joy to hear him. I just wish we could hear more.

Opernglas 5/2010

will be translated as soon as possible

” …  Bei weiterem ruhigen Reifen der Stimme dürfte Marlis Petersen ein breit gefächertes Repertoire offenstehen und eine lange Karriere beschert sein. Im »Hamlet« hörte man endlich ein auch Ophélies erste große Arie im 2. Akt sowie die folgenden Konfrontationen wirklich voll aussingendes vokales Pendant zum nach wie vor sensationell differenzierenden Simon Keenlyside in der Titelpartie, dessen Fulminanz letztlich auch Jennifer Larmore in der dankbaren Partie der Königin Gertrud mitriss über ihre eigentlichen Grenzen so eindrucksvoll hinaus, dass die Szene Hamlets mit seiner Mutter tatsächlich einmal zum intendierten musikalischen und dramatischen Höhepunkt dieser Oper wurde. … “

David J Baker, Opera News, June 2010

Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, after more than a century’s absence, has returned to the Metropolitan Opera in a shrewd coproduction that holds out a promise of rehabilitation for this uneasy blend of Shakespeare and grand opera. The well-traveled staging by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser has held its own in Geneva, Barcelona and London by banishing most of the grandiosity and converting this oxymoronic French Hamlet into a streamlined vehicle for a few strong singing actors.

It looked briefly as if the Met’s production (seen Mar. 16) might not recover from the loss of its Ophélie, after Natalie Dessay withdrew because of illness. Thomas’s 1868 adaptation has been damned by critics for inflating the passive heroine’s role, thus robbing Hamlet to pay Ophélie. Librettists Michel Carré and Jules Barbier were basically repeating the operation they had performed on Goethe’s Faust for Gounod a decade earlier, which was to turn a drama of some depth and complexity into a love story; in the process, their heroine moved to center stage. In the case of Ophélie, the expansion of the role is pure formula: she gets action-stopping set pieces, especially a long, generic bel canto mad scene. It requires a Dessay, not just expressive but inventive, to supply some essential dramatic content.

Her short-notice replacement was German coloratura Marlis Petersen. Petersen — who did not arrive in New York until after the production’s official dress rehearsal — did not project a very strong presence in her first scenes, and there were disturbing signs of strain and vague pitch in the upper reaches of her singing. It was hard to banish memories of Dessay’s uncanny concentration, which made her filmed Ophélie almost eerily taut and fragile from the very beginning. But Petersen asserted herself before long with growing proof of vocal temperament and purposeful phrasing. Her mad scene went farther still, revealing an appealing legato style and a well-focused, radiant mezza voce that seemed ideal for the plaintive lines. Her Ophélie may not have acted much like a tragic heroine, but it truly sounded like one.

Simon Keenlyside, like Dessay an essential anchor of the production since 1996, has a firm grip on the opera’s title role and a charismatic stage presence — strengths that restore some of the essential balance in this drama. His portrayal abounds in eccentric posturing and passive-aggressive games, without going to the neurotic, willowy extremes of an Olivier or a Gielgud. Forceful gestures and a fundamental macho quality suggest that this is a man of action undone by tragic events, not the embodiment of Oedipal or suicidal symptoms.

Keenlyside’s sound has grown and darkened since earlier Met roles and apparently since the Hamlet video from Barcelona (2004), lending explosive energy to his displays of anger. The famous brindisi became a tour de force of snarling menace. He sang with flexibility and eloquence, but without much range in vocal coloring for some of Thomas’s shapely lyrical effects. He has a tendency to distort French vowels for expressive purpose. Undeniably, though, this is a rich vocal performance in the service of a masterful characterization.

In Jennifer Larmore the company had a riveting Gertrude, a role that Thomas made into a virtuoso star turn with an ambitious range. Extreme makeup makes this Gertrude resemble a Norma Desmond verging on Cruella De Vil, as if to convert her essential weakness into pure villainy, but Larmore gave the character an affecting vulnerability. She projected the complex vocal lines with force and musical coherence. Her confrontations with Keenlyside provided some of the evening’s most stirring moments.

As the villainous Claudius, James Morris was suitably wily and unpleasant, though his thin, nasal vocal delivery could not do justice to the role. English tenor Toby Spence made his company debut as a warm, youthful Laërte, who sang securely without conveying much Gallic flavor.

Conductor Louis Langrée had his problems with coordination and balance, especially in early scenes and the Act II climax. He stressed the dark, brooding qualities in the orchestral interludes and seemed to relish the unusual instrumental coloring Thomas provides at key moments such as the pantomime in the banquet scene or the accompaniment for Ophélie. For the most part, this was an efficient performance but not a particularly poetic one.

Efficiency was the key to the physical production as well, with its emphasis on interactions between individuals. Some of the choral music was deleted, and one of the procession scenes kept most of the chorus offstage. The staging was often effective in its economy, such as in the slick play-within-a-play to “catch the conscience of a king,” in which the stylized murder pantomime was shown in oversize projected silhouette. Another efficient touch was the use of the more Shakespearean ending, which Thomas provided as an alternate: rather than surviving to be king, Keenlyside’s Hamlet died from wounds received at Laërte’s hand.

The costumes by Agostino Cavalca offered the familiar mix of period and contemporary — gowns for the women, a long cloak for Claudius, sporty “business casual” for the junior males. It seemed appropriate for angry young Hamlet to be bending the dress code the farthest, appearing barefoot, slouching, hands in pockets as if in a glossy clothing ad. Christian Fenouillat’s sets reflected the contemporary European contempt for operatic eye candy, with an Elsinore that was nothing but bare wall panels, often filling the stage at awkward angles to one another. But there was strategy at work here too. The one break in the prevailing gloom was the paradoxical switch to brightness and flowers in the mad scene: prettiness in this state of Denmark can only be a hallucination.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue September 7, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Petra,
Many thanks for your help and for all the work you do for SKinfo.
Kind regards
Sue

Sue September 5, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Hamlet – the Met broadcast of the whole opera is on YouTube here:-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFwuKqBFp8g
Catch it before it disappears!

Terence Dawson May 6, 2010 at 9:42 am

I have the Liceu DVD also but from John’s description would love to see the Met broadcast.
It was in this production in 2003 that I first was blown away by SK and as I have said else where on this site, hate the production but it would be fascinating to see how SK’s interpretation has developed.
Are there any plans to release a DVD?

Ann Lander March 31, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I have the Liceu DVD and want one of the Met production just to enjoy a slightly different edition.
I recorded it from BBC R3 but would still love to see it as well.

John Palik March 31, 2010 at 1:53 am

I have the Barcelona DVD, and there are still many reasons I would like to have a DVD from the Met production, the rarely performed “corrected” ending being only one. There are many subtle changes in the production and in SK’s portrayal of Hamlet. The camera work is superior at the Met, with more close shots. The subtitles are a better translation. Laertes is superior. Gertrude and Claudius are about equal (both plus and minus). The frenzied scene after the play-within-a-play is punched up, and I swear I saw SK do a standing leap from the floor up onto the table (will have to check that when I see the encore broadcast in a couple weeks). Petersen’s Ophelie is different from Dessay’s, but not necessarily inferior. And the ending used by the Met gives Hamlet more gravitas and dramatic impact at the final curtain – Ophelie is anyway always trying to hijack the opera when Hamlet’s back is turned, and this redresses that imbalance to some extent. Barcelona is very interesting, it is true, once you have heard SK describe how he was run over by a bus 2 hours before that performance, and you can appreciate his chuckling to himself while singing “etre ou ne pas etre.” I do not know if the Met DVDs of their simulcasts include the interviews, but I would love to have a record of SK, dripping with blood-red stage wine from head to toe, enticing a horrified Renee Fleming “I love you, Renee – come give me a big kiss!”

Philip March 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm

c’est bien d’entendre Simon mais c’est encore mieux de le voir ; il est totalement habité par le rôle.
performance éblouissante !

Lucy Turner March 28, 2010 at 11:39 am

In reply to Ann Lander, the Met don’t need to produce a DVD! There already is a DVD of this production, made at Barcelona in 2003 with Natalie Dessay as Ophelie (and the alternate ending). Look for details in the “Recordings” section of this website.

Ann Lander March 27, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I’ve just been listening to the Met broadcast. What a treat & lovely to hear Simon interviewed in the interval. He wasn’t given much time to catch his breath but his comments were fascinating. I should imaging it’s difficult to come out of character immediately but he’s so professional. Hope he managed to get showered & changed OK!

Margaret Juntwait has said “The entire audience are on their feet” I wish I’d been there & hope the Met produce a DVD.

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