Thoughts untweeted: LA Opera, ‘Ghosts of Versailles’

Patricia Racette as the spirit of Marie Antoinette.  Photo: Craig Mathew, courtesy LAO
Patricia Racette as the spirit of Marie Antoinette. Photo: Craig Mathew, courtesy LAO

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is a big place.  So big, in fact, that it’s sometimes hard to chase an Internet connection while we’re there.  (Most people, luckily, don’t have to worry about this — just the faithful few in the “tweet seats”. And the people running the show, of course.)

As connectivity problems at last evening’s ‘Ghosts’ dress rehearsal drained my phone’s battery like Dracula and an alabaster neck, old-fashioned pen and paper made a nice compromise. And Beaumarchais would have appreciated the power of the pen, albeit ballpoint.

The short version:  it’s a great show, and one of the best evenings I’ve spent at the opera in years.  Don’t miss it.  Ghosts of Versailles runs Feb 7 to March 1Click here to learn more, see more photos, have a quick listen, check the schedule, and buy tickets.

In the meantime, here are a few things that didn’t get into the #LAOGhosts feed, for your post-dress/pre-opening enjoyment:

  • Corigliano’s score includes many quotes from sources all over the map, from a Barber motif on Rosina’s entrance to Mozartean tidbits to set a mood or two
  • 2015-02_LAOGhosts_Begearss1Bégearss’ Robert Brubaker (right) is so marvelously slimy! Agree with @MrCKDH about the red glasses – the right touch. (And very Jim Morrison.)
  • This spectacular set is ornate and peppered with trompe l’oeil effects that are alternately real and like a tapestry. The overall effect is exquisite artifice that the 18th-c. French would have loved.
  • Esp. loving the statues at either side of the internal proscenium — I keep expecting them to come to life!  #ShadesofDido
  • Just between composer John Corigliano and director Darko Tresnjak, there are a whole pile of awards represented in this room. A little intimidating, to be sure.
  • Cherubino is naive, thinking only of romance.  Rosina/Countess is in knots over morality and politics of infidelity, but is eventually won over.  As doubts again creep in, the dissonance slips in and out.  The result is a little gimmicky and confused, but it actually works well.
  • The same emotional bitonality is far more effective in Beaumarchais and Antonia’s remix, and @chrismaltman is irresistible here.  He and Patricia Racette are also more sure musically than the first pair, so the echo is more solid than the original. #DressEffect
  • Nice lighting effect against the projected woodland backdrop looks like fireflies (butterflies?).  Pick an insect — it’s lovely.
  • Photo: Ben Gibbs, courtesy LAO
    Photo: Ben Gibbs, courtesy LAO

    Aerialists (“silk flyers”) onstage in Turkish Embassy scene are strong and limber, but the proscenium seriously cuts the height — they don’t have room to do much. #missedopp

  • • Joel Sorenson very funny as Wilhelm, a little reminiscent of Crispin Glover.  Très campy.
  • Celeb guest star Patti LuPone is clearly having a ball, brings down the house and gets her own bow.
  • When Figaro takes over, Beaumarchais leaves the spirit world to enter the opera and fix things.  Marie/Antonia: “Change the past and you lose your power!”
  • Susanna’s @lucyschaufer is strong, smart and knows how to wield a frying pan.  #dontmess Can’t wait to see her in the other two ‘Figaro’ operas!
  • As the revolution boils over, little kids stick heads on a stick, and later toss a severed head around like a ball.  Marie’s headless body sits in the corner, otherwise spotless.
  • Joshua Guerrero is in fine voice as Almaviva, and Kristinn Sigmundsson couldn’t be better as Louis XVI.  These aristos know how to rattle a larynx.
  • Brenton Ryan as Léon is a fine, heroic tenor, the perfect young romantic lead.
  • John Corgliano layers styles and keys like thick layers of paint, an impasto creation that melds courtly dances and spooky strings.
  • The dance of the headless ghosts is fluid, synergistic and sad as a silent wail.  Bravo to choreographer Peggy Hickey.
  • Victoria Livengood makes her entrance.  Photo: Ben Gibbs.
    Victoria Livengood makes her entrance. Photo: Ben Gibbs.

    “Woman in a Hat” (and what a hat!), Victoria Livengood @vidixiediva, is larger than life ala Dame Edna.  Totally loveable.

  • The hat (which deserves its own credit) is nearly 4 feet across, shaped like a Pringle and balanced on a mountain of white wig.  Feathers and beads float and sparkle hypnotically.
  • First act showed extreme folly of aristocratic life, full of fun and vanity.  Second paints them as more human, wiser, more relatable, as those around them turn ugly.  Viewpoint changes everything in politics.
  • Is Bégearss the only one who doesn’t change?  As compelling as he is, the character is still pretty 2-dimensional.
  • The ensemble from the prison cell is complex, sad, ethereal, resigned.  Ultimately peaceful, a mash-up of final prayers.
  • Stretching strings, bass clarinet staccato echoed by oboe, offer tangible sense of foreboding.  the percussive flurry means we’re in trouble…  Nope, it’s Figaro!
  • Fig saves the day, denounces Begearss, and Beau gets to sock Wilhelm in the kisser.  “Goodbye, Figaro, you were my favorite child,” sayeth the creator.
  • The orchestra, with James Conlon at the helm, shows great artistic strength with a piece that ain’t easy.  No noticeable bugaboos, and plenty of grand, sweeping moments.
  • In the end, Antonia insists she must die.  “For there was no peace.”
  • Chemistry between Maltman and Racette is so much better than in other productions.  Realistic, heartfelt portrayals in an age that glorified artifice.  Another kind of bitonality that illuminates from within.
  • Final moments are filled with jeers from an offstage mob, but we can’t hear them very well.  Hot air balloon lifts guillotine’s victims to a higher plane, and Beau and Antonia are together forever.


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