Accessible Contemporary Opera
Robert Doyle | Phoenix, Arizona | 04/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The music is very accessible (hints of Faure) and the action moves along with few slow spots. I was uncomfortable at first with the role of Joseph Merrick being sung by a woman, Jana Sykorova, who does an excellent job nonetheless. The singing is uniformly strong and the sets are striking and effective. The production is well done and well worth your time.
The highlight of the production is the first act which features Robert Breault as Tom Norman, Showman. Breault has a brilliant tenor voice that is matched by excellent acting. He brings empathy and pathos to a character that is more often played as a stereotype. His character dominated the stage and I felt the energy of the opera drop when he left. He also demonstrates physical courage in singing in various positions from the arched top of a circus wagon.
There are a few moments of anachronistic and pointless stage action that weakened the theatrical consistency and were distracting. The editing shows the unfortunate tendency of modern editors to show off their skills by far too many edits. The viewer doesn't have the chance to see a singer or stage action from a single point of view long enough before being distracted by an edit (all modern editors should be forced watch how simply Fred Astaire had his dance sequences edited, and how artistically effective and emotionally satisfying simplicity can be).
Of further note is Magali Leger as the The Coloratura whose part is a kind of demented (though humorous) pastiche of coloratura singing. She brought a new charge of energy into the fourth act.
Despite the caveats, "Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man", captures the pathos, humanity, and tragedy of the story of Joseph Merrick.
The performance and the composition warrant five stars, but the editing (too which I may be overly sensitive) was distracting.