Saturday, November 10, 2018

Marnie HD


Conductor.....................Robert Spano
Production....................Michael Mayer

Marnie..................Isabel Leonard (mezzo)
Mark Rutland........Christopher Maltman (baritone)
Marnie's Mother.....Denyce Graves (mezzo)
Mr. Strutt..............Anthony Dean Griffey (tenor)
Terry Rutland.........Iestyn Davies (countertenor)
Laura Fleet.............Ashley Emerson
Malcom Fleet........Will Liverman
Derek...................Ian Koziara
Miss Fedder...........Marie Te Hapuku
Mrs. Rutland..........Janis Kelly (soprano)
Dr. Roman...............James Courtney
Lucy....................Jane Bunnell
Dawn....................Stacey Tappan
Little Boy..............Gabriel Gurevich
Shadow Marnies: Deanna Breiwick, Disella Lárusdóttir, Rebecca Ringle Kamarei, Peabody Southwell

Wikipedia says, "Marnie is an opera in English by Nico Muhly to a libretto by Nicholas Wright based on the 1961 novel by Winston Graham. It premiered at the English National Opera in November 2017 and at the Metropolitan Opera in October 2018." However, this story is most famous as an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The premier at the ENO explains the presence of so many English singers.

The story and the production are dense and complicated, more like a crime novel than an opera.  Marnie has four alter egos who dress in similar outfits and occasionally sing.  No one but Marnie notices them.  She invents identities for herself and gets jobs in offices where she is the payroll clerk.  Then she steals the money.  This all takes place in small towns in southern England.


The alter egos aren't the only strange figures wandering around the stage.  We have frequently thin men in gray business suits and hats who seem to be merely menacing.  Reminder:  thin people in the opera generally indicates ballet.

In one scene in Act I Marnie visits her mother, played by the great Denyce Graves.  Mother constantly suspects and accuses.  Marnie is reminded that she killed her younger brother.

Mark Rutland recognizes Marnie and blackmails her into marrying him. She agrees to stay with him if he moves her horse to the country.  He makes her see a psychiatrist.  This is one crazy lady.  In Act II there is an extended scene where Marnie rides her beloved horse on a fox hunt.  The horse injures itself, and she is forced to shoot it. Her mother dies and much is revealed.  The ending is ambiguous. That's enough plot stuff.  The production has an acceptable air of mystery and creepiness.

Isabel Leonard is a wonderful actress as well as an excellent singer, and pretty much carries this opera.  She has 15 costumes or maybe more.  They showed us a film of her going in and out of her cubicle in the wings.

The score as played by the orchestra was fascinating and rather beautiful.  I have been listening to the Festival of New American Music all this week, and I must say Nico Muhly's style is more coherent than seems to be generally the case these days.  I enjoyed listening to it.  My only problem with the music here was with the material composed for the voices.  Act I lacked any sense of vocal legato, the core feature of opera.  There was more solo material and therefore quite a bit of improvement in Act II.  It was entertaining, but I'm not sure I would want to see it again.

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