‘The Hours’ Turns Again, From Book to Movie to All-Star Opera

The most dramatic and effective of the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s operatic adaptation of Hours (until 15 Dec), directed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, takes full advantage of the narrative by having three female protagonists on stage.

That physical closeness, along with Phelim McDermott’s clever reading of Michael Cunningham’s best-selling novel (notes by Kevin Puts and libretto by Greg Pierce), brings to intimate and provocative life the correspondences and resonances between Virginia Woolf’s (Joyce DiDonato) feminist novel in 1923, Laura Brown (Kelli O’Hara), a mother in Los Angeles in 1949, and book editor Clarissa Vaughan (Renée Fleming) in New York in 1999.

The book and film formats mean that a shared platform is impossible; Here instead we see scenes and voices that sometimes overlap, or characters left on stage in a quiet or frozen rest, as another character plays the scene.

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The centerpiece of intertemporal repetition is the novel Mrs. Dalloway. Wolf writes it in his assignment; Laura reads it in hers; and Clarissa not only shares the protagonist’s first name, but she (as Mrs. D) plans a team-up for Richard (Kyle Ketelson), her longtime friend and AIDS writer, who has had enough of her life. . He even calls her Mrs. Dalloway – The modern-day Clarissa is said to have the charm of her legendary history.

Just like in Cunningham’s novel and Stephen Daldry’s award-winning 2002 movie (where Nicole Kidman won an Oscar as Woolf), we follow a day in the lives of all three women. As you take your seats, a large clock on the stage shows the real time ticking.

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On stage, the messianic look of each woman’s home (sets and costumes by Tom Pye) reflects them and their time. The three layers of rings that are straight into the extraordinary period are unfathomable, but the drapes that open dramatically around them are a poignant addition to the swings in time and circumstances before us. We have a yellow sun in Laura’s kitchen where she is determined to bake a cake for husband Dan (Brandon Cedel), with the help of son Richie (young Kai Edgar), but we quickly see as she lies in her bed Laura’s depression and instability. . He loves his family, but he is cringing inside.

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Suicide, fear and dissatisfaction, haunts all three women. Leonard Woolf (Sean Panikkar) is afraid that Virginia will hurt herself directly or indirectly – DiDonato plays her trembling with anger at being interrupted, to her husband and to the maid Nelly (Eve Gigliotti) who is desperate for food. He wants to write, to be left alone, and later suicidal thoughts will begin to follow him. Meanwhile Clarissa, who lives with partner Sally (Denyce Graves) in a brick loft, is decorated with a white angel. It may have only been one day, but for all three women the times of change are about to unfold. They share pain, desire, depression, determination—and all the while fighting an invisible clock.

Kelli O’Hara as Laura Brown, Renée Fleming as Clarissa Vaughan, and Joyce DiDonato as Virginia Woolf in ‘The Hours.’

Evan Zimmerman/Met Opera

The opera is about three hours long, with one intermission. The first half is around two hours, the last about an hour – this means that the first half has the sad feeling of an invisible novel, or disturbing parts of a movie. Others, like this critic, may enjoy a little exposure; others may find it a drag.

Unlike its two counterparts, the opera introduced a rare folk song to fill the stage. The chorus seems to reflect the anxiety and influence of women, and it feels contrived and unnecessary, except when it does something tangible like lifting a bunch of flowers into the air – flowers are the main symbol of Mrs. Hours, fasting, joy and meditation. The choir, dressed in gray, marches and flows to and fro, like a kind of sad army. If their presence is symbolic it is exaggerated and exaggerated; women tell us how they feel, after that.

What Clarissa’s unexpected kiss and flowers Barbara (Kathleen Kim) means that Clarissa less well told B-story, her relationship failing Sally-for this critic one very unfair written characters on stage. Clarissa tells us how she wants to run away from the relationship, but we often see Sally supporting her partner in a rational and silent way – very much what is wrong with them, and why we are “stupid,” as Clarissa calls her, never. made clear. Sally, and Denyce Graves, deserve better.

The audience at Tuesday night’s gala event was understandably excited to see three such superstars on stage together, and boos were on display. O’Hara made a convincing role for the audience, giving Hours‘ the most moving thing is its important heart, and it also leads to one of the most amazing moments of the show – her transformation from the young Laura to the old Laura in front of us, as she prepares to meet Clarissa, and we see that the young Richie we see in the 1950s is the old Richard in 1999. Fleming’s voice seemed more restrained, which—along with his often tormented and defeated demeanor—slightly detracted from his performance.

The second half slips or slides quickly from one emotional transition to another to a weakly informed conclusion.

The result of the worst scene on stage—and we’re told over and over again that someone will die that day—feels like a rush to find hope, a choice that’s incredibly condescending. Hours looking at its decision.

The opera most importantly decided not to adapt one of the film’s best sequences – Virginia’s suicidal trip to the river, which begins and ends the movie. Instead, we see a kind of juxtaposition of some of his last words, and the words spoken to Leonard when he finds him at the train station – and he finally lives up to the end of the opera.

The stories of these three women are told faithfully and carefully in the first half, the second half slips or slips quickly from emotional changes to another to a weakly reported conclusion – which, far from suicide, is a collective declaration. that life is life, and we all live here, and we must do the best with love and the people we have around us. Cinema chose death as its binding theme, opera chose life.

This, while sung loudly and beautifully by DiDonato, O’Hara, and Fleming—whose characters are now linked to escape the boundaries of time—seemed like a dull ending, insufficient for the emotional ties and interrogation of its predecessor. It is not Hours it could do with an extra hour—and one more break—to really give women the time they need to get to the rich spots.

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