EmptyMetropolitan Opera, New York
Through Saturday, Dec. 22
Considering that it is this country's premier opera house, the Metropolitan sure has some gaps in its repertoire. Its current production of Gluck's 18th century opera "Iphigenie en Tauride" is, incredibly, its first appearance in about 90 years. Considering the high quality of this staging by Stephen Wadsworth featuring Susan Graham and Placido Domingo, that lengthy a gap is unlikely to recur.
The co-production with the Seattle Opera has no doubt been conceived as a showcase for its female star, who has sung the role to great acclaim in such cities as Paris and London. The casting of superstar Domingo, here originating the 125th role of his august career, is but a bonus.
Based on a French play that itself was adapted from the Greek tragedy by Euripides, the opera depicts the plight of the daughter of Agamemnon, who has been forced into exile and conscripted into serving as a priestess in a temple devoted to the goddess Diane (Michele Losier). Ordered by King Thoas (William Shimell) to kill two captured Greek soldiers as a sacrifice, she discovers to her horror that one of them is her brother Oreste (Domingo).
Gluck's consistently compelling music is here expertly handled by the Met Orchestra, conducted by "Mostly Mozart" artistic director Louis Langree, and gorgeously sung by the principals. Graham brings an anguished urgency to her performance in the title role, never revealing an iota of vocal strain. Domingo, singing a part originally written for a baritone, continues to astonish with his continued richness of tone and sheer vocal stamina. He's well matched by tenor Paul Groves as the fellow prisoner, with their duets providing some of the evening's most memorable moments.
Performed on an expansive bisected set depicting the cavernous temple and the cramped chamber in which the prisoners await their fate, the production features numerous superlative touches, including spectacular flying appearances by the goddess and haunting group dances choreographed by Daniel Pelzig.
IPHIGENIE EN TAURIDE
Presented by the Metropolitan Opera
Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
Libretto: Nicolas-Francois Guillard
Director: Stephen Wadsworth
Conductor: Louis Langree
Set designer: Thomas Lynch
Costume designer: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting designer: Neil Peter Jampolis
Choreographer: Daniel Pelzig
Iphigenie: Susan Graham
Orest: Placido Domingo
Pylade: Paul Groves
Thoas: William Shimell
Diane: Michele Losier
First Priestess: Lisette Oropesa
Second Priestess: Sasha Cooke
Scythian Minister: David Won