Friday, June 19, 2009

Love and Other Demons

This opera by Peter Eötvös is based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez' book on the same name. It was first performed in Vilnius last October (original premiere in Glyndebourne; it's our co-production with them) - I missed it - but last night formed part of the Vilnius International Opera Festival.

Not having read anything about it, and being too mean to buy a programme, I thought the story was about a girl who was sexually abused by her father, then became rather sexually precocious (not acceptable in 18th century Colombia) and for that was meant to be exorcised (they were singing in English, but a lot of words were lost), made love to Satan, and then was exorcised. The fact that the guy who I thought was Satan was played by the guy (Vytautas Juozapaitis) who was Don Giovanni added a certain piquancy for me.

In fact she was bitten by a rabid dog, then went mad, my 'Satan' was the exorcist who fell in love with her and so on. 

It was a very busy opera; a great change from those static performances of the Mariinsky theatre, with an ever changing set, a river of (live!) fire on the stage, contrasts between the apparently mad girl (Marisol Montalvo?) and the nuns constantly fluttering around, who later, themselves, threw off their togs (to dresses underneath). Unlike the girl who in the process of exorcism was stripped down to her briefs and covered in ... blood...(red paint). And then she sang, wearing nothing but briefs.....(With her figure she could get away with it!)

The music? Eötvös' music is not the kind you would go home whistling, not much in the way of tunes; it's very modern and intellectual. I felt the opera was more about the story, with the music playing a role like in film music, emphasizing or explaining what happened on the stage, and adding information, eg with the nuns singing in the background. There were moments when it reminded me of 'Peter Grimes', but perhaps only because of the very high tenor voice, and the music accompanying it.

After the first half I was not sure if I would stay, but I am glad I did - after I while I stopped worrying about 'having to enjoy the music' and just enjoyed the spectacle. So go if you want to see something exciting, but not if you want to go home whistling a tune.


varske said...

I don't remember much about the music, I was too busy trying to follow the action on the stage, and wondering "could this really be happening in Vilnius?".

It's certainly entertaining but reminds me of Glenda Jackson in the film about Tchaikovsky rolling about in the railway carriage. A lot over the top.

Pete said...

That's the trouble with love, I suppose - isn't it usually over the top? I would worry about restrained love....