Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thaïs at the Met

I saw Thaïs at the Met on Thursday night. It made me extra grateful that I went to Paris for Thaïs in concert in April, 2007. Massenet's Thaïs is a breathtaking score, poetic and ethereal, tender at times, uplifting yet heartbreaking. I love to listen to it. At this Met production, I was indeed glad to listen but was forced to close my eyes to the modern set. The juxtaposition of set with the beauty of the music was jarring to my senses. The opera takes place in Egypt, but the set looked like a tacky 1970s swinger's apartment set on a floor shaped like a giant cheese flavored Ruffle potato chip. It was distracting and when I watched Renée Fleming (Thaïs), Thomas Hampson (Athanaël) and the other singers gingerly stepping across it, I was completely removed from the music in my worry that they would fall. Despite the set, Renee's costumes were beautiful and she wore them well, even if they were over the top. She looked impossibly glamorous as the goddess courtesan. My favorite part came when she was crossing a bridge, literally and figuratively, from her past into a new life in a convent. I can never understand how her voice is so controlled while so tender. I loved Thomas' passionate baritone. I will see the production again at the Live in HD Broadcast on 12/20. I'm hoping that the cameras focus on the singers and none of the set.

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