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Assessment: ‘The Hours’ Returns to the Met Opera With Its Stars

Kevin Places’s “The Hours,” which had its stage premiere on the Metropolitan Opera final season and returned for its first revival on Sunday, is even prettier than I keep in mind.

Within the usually beautiful rating, the strings throb and the woodwinds flutter. When Places reaches for percussion devices, he chooses the sweeter ones — glockenspiel, crotales, chimes, vibraphone — and combines them luxuriously. Woodwinds on the high of Act II are virtually Wagnerian of their extravagant stateliness. Tender piano chords toll lonesomely. Musical surges are thick with nostalgia. The luscious vocal traces experience love, and understanding, of the human voice.

But it surely’s straightforward to overlook the rating’s manifold beauties when the stage is stuffed with distractions. Extraneous dancers and supernumeraries flood Phelim McDermott’s manufacturing on the Met. In a single second, the choreographer Annie-B Parson has them twirl round holding pillows whereas a personality considers killing herself in a lodge room. Including to the busyness, Places closely options the refrain as a collective, omniscient narrator and the characters’ internal voices. As a tool, it doesn’t work; whereas the story intimately intertwines the emotional lives of three ladies, the refrain infringes upon their reference to the viewers.

It’s nearly as if Places and McDermott are afraid to take a sustained take a look at their heroines, or that they don’t belief the viewers’s consideration span. That is particularly perplexing contemplating they’ve three leads on the order of Renée Fleming, Kelli O’Hara and Joyce DiDonato, who reprised their roles on Sunday. When the stage was freed from litter, their star wattage was dazzling.

As Virginia Woolf, DiDonato was a haunted, magisterial presence. Her voice, darkish, fulsome and chopping, communicated Woolf’s mental depth and her private demons; there was the perception and occlusion of a novelist on the top of her powers hiding her suicidal ideations from others. As Laura, O’Hara sang with a voice of tremendous crystal, and whereas her timbre was somewhat cloudier than it was, she embodied Laura’s fragile nerves and anxious self-loathing. The general form of Fleming’s voice remained improbably youthful in its creamy roundness. Her Clarissa was patrician but superficial, although partial blame rests with the libretto, through which each different phrase of hers is “flowers” or “get together.”

“The Hours” is predicated on Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the identical identify, and on Stephen Daldry’s 2002 movie adaptation. However the opera could also be too loyal to its sources (and too awed by Woolf’s genius). Passing moments within the e-book are given undue significance right here. The scene within the flower store, with its cheesy coloratura writing and pandering allusions to Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte,” the function of the Man Beneath the Arch, the omniscient refrain — all of it might simply be reduce. Whereas we’re at it, the staging might lose the dancers, too.

When Places and Greg Pierce, the librettist, transfer away from literalism and embrace opera’s particular benefits as a medium, the work soars. The weaving of Laura’s and Virginia’s personal agonies in a duet throughout time and area, a simultaneity extra simply achieved right here than in books or motion pictures, creates an empathy that the viewers feels even when the 2 of them can not. Right here, as elsewhere on Sunday, the orchestra performed with great fluidity, form and character underneath the baton of Kensho Watanabe.

It’s apparent that Places tailor-made the lead roles to every of the three ladies. Within the plainest moments of sung dialogue, their voices retained a stunning succulence. Nonetheless, on the excessive finish of their ranges, O’Hara’s voice strained and DiDonato’s shuddered uncomfortably, and Fleming was exhausting to listen to except the orchestration was thinned out.

Regardless of the eye lavished on the ladies, it’s actually the poet Richard, dying of AIDS and fed up together with his life, who offers the piece its tragedy. The bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen sang with a darkly good-looking tone and acted with wry, rending despair.

Within the opera’s remaining moments, the ladies come collectively after Richard’s loss of life. “Right here is the world and you reside in it,” they sing with compassionate simplicity. There’s a kindness to the ethical, to the concept we’re sufficient. If solely this attractive piece took its personal recommendation to coronary heart.

The Hours

Via Could 31 on the Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan;

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