[Met Performance] CID:306860

World Premiere, New Production, Commission, American Opera

The Ghosts of Versailles
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, December 19, 1991

Debut : Stella Zambalis, Dean Badolato, Lauren Flanigan, Steven Combs, Howard Bender, Janet Hopkins, Lynda Keith, MaryAnn McCormick, Kenn Chester, Debra Brown

The Ghosts of Versailles (1)
John Corigliano | William M. Hoffman
Marie Antoinette
Teresa Stratas

Marilyn Horne

Graham Clark

Gino Quilico

Håkan Hagegård

Judith Christin

Peter Kazaras

Renée Fleming

Tracy Dahl

Neil Rosenshein

Wilbur Pauley

Stella Zambalis [Debut]

Turkish Ambassador
Ara Berberian

English Ambassador
Philip Cokorinos

Dean Badolato [Debut]

Midhat Serbagi

Elegant Woman
Jane Shaulis

Louis XVI
James Courtney

Richard Drews

Wendy Hoffman

Betsy Norden

Kitt Reuter-Foss

Lauren Flanigan [Debut]

Sondra Kelly

Michael Best

Kevin Short

David Bernard

Steven Combs [Debut]

John Darrenkamp

Man with Ladder
John Horton Murray

Man with Lather
Howard Bender [Debut]

Other Man
Andrij Dobriansky

Woman with Baby
Theresa Cincione

Woman with Baby
Korliss Uecker

Woman with Child
Loretta Di Franco

Woman with Child
Janet Hopkins [Debut]

Woman with Child
Lynda Keith [Debut]

Woman with Child
MaryAnn McCormick [Debut]

Hilda Harris

Linda Thompson

Kenn Chester [Debut]

Andrea Velis

Samuel Cristler

James Levine

Colin Graham

John Conklin

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Debra Brown [Debut]

The Ghosts of Versailles received seven performances this season.
THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES has received thirteen performances in two seasons.

The Ghosts of Versailles was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera
Production gift of Francis Goelet
Addition production gifts from the Knight Foundation, The Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, and The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund

Review 1:

Review of Tim Page in Newsday


Some 200 years after the fact, it is still possible to engage in a deeply felt, all-engrossing argument about the consequences of the French Revolution. But whether one posits the uprising as the dawn of modern democracy, as the first manifestation of modern totalitarianism, or as anything in between, there should be little dispute about "The Ghosts of Versailles," a new "grand opera buffa" with music by John Corigliano and libretto by William H. Hoffman, which received its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House last night.

"The Ghosts of Versailles" is the first work commissioned by the Met in almost a quarter century, and it is in every way a distinguished contribution to American opera. Indeed, "Ghosts" ranks with the best of Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Virgil Thomson and Philip Glass, and it is certainly one of the most amazing first operas (for both composer and librettist) in the repertory.

"Ghosts" has some flaws - it is too long (at three hours plus intermission, there is simply too much of it, although I can't specify what I would cut out); the libretto, for all its intelligence and complexity, occasionally seems overfreighted (it is often difficult to tell just what is "going on" - a quality "Ghosts" shares with one of its great precursors, "Le Nozze di Figaro" - and I will not attempt to summarize). Moreover, there is, perhaps, a surfeit of slow music: Corigliano loves long, languorous adagios, during which the action sometimes sags.

But all this pales in the face of the opera's real accomplishments. Hoffman and Corigliano have taken the third and least familiar "Figaro" play by Beaumarchais and used it as a springboard into an extended fantasia on the French Revolution, in which the playwright himself is a leading character. The results are, by turn, funny, sad, tender, lush, lyrical, sophisticated and phantasmagorical. "The Ghosts of Versailles" is constantly engrossing on one level or another; dazzlingly allusive yet surprisingly all-of-apiece; fashioned chock-a-block with grateful, elaborate, multi-tiered arias and ensembles that tested, but never quite exceeded, the limitations of the world-class singers the Met assembled.

One was reminded, in passing, of many earlier works - Mozart and Rossini (run together, as through a blender); the rapturous, abstracted Strauss of "Capriccio" and "Ariadne auf Naxos"; various settings, sung and unsung, of "Pygmalion" (Beaumarchais falls in love with the Marie Antoinette he has "created" and enters the action with the intent of saving her from the mob); and two earlier operas set in this period, Giordano's "Andrea Chenier" and Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites." (With due respect to the tunes in "Chenier" and the smashing cumulative power of the Met's staging of "Dialogues," the Corigliano/Hoffman opera is richer than both of them.)

Ultimately, "The Ghosts of Versailles" succeeds, as must all works of art, on its merits rather than any triggered reminiscences. In keeping with the sustained, quasi-hallucinatory fancy of Hoffman's libretto, Corigliano tries on a lot of different styles - from neo-baroque frippery to the highest of Modernisms -and yet such is his fluency, individuality and seriousness of purpose that he never falls into self-conscious eclecticism for its own sake. This is a brilliant, beautiful score from a composer who continues to surpass himself.

Space precludes an adequate appreciation of this first production. Suffice it to say that Colin Graham's staging was witty and appropriately surreal; that James Levine's conducting was searching and lovingly detailed; that Marilyn Horne brought her usual virtuosity and cosmic high spirits to a hilarious send-up of Grand Opera Arabianism; that Håkan Hagegård sang the role of Beaumarchais with dapper empathy; that Graham Clark was a chillingly fanatical Begearss; that the excellent Jane Shaulis, James Courtney, Gino Quilico, Judith Christin, Peter Kazaras, Renée Fleming, Tracy Dahl, Neil Rosenshein, Stella Zambalis and Ara Berberian all deserve their own paragraphs. Special praise must be reserved for Teresa Stratas - hearty and rarified, fragile and all-powerful as Marie Antoinette - whose impeccably plotted and thrillingly emotive singing brought down the house.

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