[91] Hector Berlioz – Les Troyens

2 Jan

Color me arbitrary.

John Eliot Gardiner conducts the  Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique

John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique

Despite long moments of soul-searching and of intellectual reflection, I am unable to explain to myself – let alone anyone else – why one recording instantly captivates where another by the same composer provokes an instant and opposite reaction.

From the opening notes of this huge and sweeping Opera, I am caught up in the vigor and excitement of the piece which quickly coalesces into an enormous choral refrain.

I enjoy the first two minutes of this more than any moment of the Symphonie Fantastique, and it only seems to get better from there.

At once intimate and powerful, the chorus gives way to soloists who each give their all for the performance.

In a coming together of desire and instruction, Moon has selected an audio-visual rather than strictly audio version on this occasion so I do not have the feeling that I have articulated on previous Operatic selections that I am somehow missing out.

But although watching this BBC production clearly helps me to follow the plot, I feel certain that this time I would be enjoying these tunes and performances just as much without the moving pictures.

Of course, I’ll never know.

Experiencing the heightened emotion and the melodrama played perfectly straight, I am reminded how much I have loved my every moment on those few occasions when I have visited the opera.  Both the music and the spectacle are big and beautiful and impossible to tear your attention from.

I may default to Musical Theater, but I am regularly reminded – every time I attend anything else, in fact – that the Theater is my love,  not just one facet of her, be it straight plays, opera or even good improv.

But back to Troy.

The music throughout is clear and crisp and gorgeous, easily accessible, effortlessly enjoyable.  There is always a flourish from the orchestra, lightening the dense intensity of the vocals, particularly heavy through the first two acts.  These embellishments buoy the whole, highlight and magnify the massive emotions being displayed.

No theme outstays its welcome, yet each is carefully established, introducing itself into the listener’s awareness until it becomes a certainty that a phrase or beat must return at some point over the following hours.

And again, I am at an utter loss as to why Les Troyens effortlessly appeals whereas Symphonie Fantastique was incapable of doing so.

Despite my High School French and helpful subtitles, it is not the plot which holds my attention – indeed I find myself allowing the somewhat familiar Greek myths pass me by without fully engaging.  The spectacle and grandeur are breathtaking, but it could as easily be a story-free Classical piece and I would enjoy it as much.

Perhaps this is the result of the extra step of remove, the bedroom setting in which I am watching my TV rather than the majesty of the Metropolitan Opera House.  Or perhaps I tune out plot in person, too.

I do not recall, and in all honesty do not care . . .

Next Week:  Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim – West Side Story

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 91 = 10%)
Heard before blogging? No. (12 of 91 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (73 of 91 = 80%)

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