Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On MARNIE at The Met
Nico Muhly's new opera Marnie, starring Isabel Leonard, Christopher Maltman, and Iestyn Davies, with Robert Spano conducting Michael Mayer's production is now on stage at The Met!
Composer Nico Muhly unveils his second new opera for the Met with this gripping reimagining of Winston Graham's novel, set in the 1950s, about a beautiful, mysterious young woman who assumes multiple identities. Director Michael Mayer and his creative team have devised a fast-moving, cinematic world for this exhilarating story of denial and deceit, which also inspired a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard sings the enigmatic Marnie, and baritone Christopher Maltman is the man who pursues her-with disastrous results. Robert Spano conducts.
A new work commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, Marnie is a musical-dramatic vision of a troubled character within a flawed society, with both the individual and the social milieu concealing inner turbulence behind sophisticated façades. Based on a 1961 novel by Winston Graham, the libretto unfolds naturalistically, and the music explores the themes set forth in the source material in a direct and often seductively beautiful manner.
Nico Muhly (b. 1981) is one of the most notable composers working today, with a wide-ranging oeuvre ballet music, orchestral and chamber works, songs, solo piano pieces, film scores, and sacred and secular choral music. In the fall of 2013, his first Met-commissioned opera, Two Boys,had its U.S. Premiere with the company. The text for Marnie was written by Nicholas Wright (b. 1940), a British dramatist born in South Africa, after the novel Marnie (1961) by prolific English author Winston Graham (1908-2003).
For tickets and more visit https://www.metopera.org/season/2018-19-season/marnie/
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Anthony Tommasini, NY Times: The best scenes in "Marnie" come when Mr. Muhly, in sync with Mr. Wright, takes creative chances. Rather than providing Marnie with any sort of tell-all aria, the opera gives her short transitional "links," as Mr. Muhly calls them, disoriented soliloquy-like passages where in broken bits of restless, leaping lines she voices bitter, confused ruminations. "What shall I be?" she sings after robbing the safe at the accounting office and deciding she must move on with a new identity. In a later link, after Mark forces a kiss upon her, she spouts disgust at his "slobbery lips," his "flickering tongue," in shards of phrases over a hurtling orchestra.
Richard Sasanow, BroadwayWorld: Countertenor Iestyn Davies gave a first-rate performance as Mark's brother, Terry, though I couldn't help thinking the character could have been excised without hurting the thrust of the story, even if he did show the most insights into Marnie's psychoses. Mezzo Denyce Graves excelled in a nasty turn as Marnie's sharp-tongued mother, overbearing and somewhat over the top, while soprano Janis Kelly gave a stylish reading of Mrs. Rutland. Boy soprano Gabriel Gurevich had an audience-pleasing turn as the messenger and tool of Marnie's mother.
Anne Midgette, The Washington Post: Muhly is a deeply gifted composer who has yet fully to display those gifts in the two operas of his I've seen, and "Marnie" made me wonder if he is perhaps too willing a collaborator, too ready to relinquish strong ideas in the effort to work well together with others. His score, to my ear, was the sound of someone holding back: creating moods and anticipation and setups, with slashing piccolos scattering ornaments and lightning bolts while the lower instruments piled up grumbling clouds of suspense, without ever actually taking hold and delivering something - beyond flickers of surging sugary emotion at a few moments.
David Salazar, Opera Wire: Overall, one got the sense that the music was there because this is an opera and by default the music HAS to be there. Of course, it had an impact on the proceedings, albeit subliminally, but on the whole it didn't really cast much of an emotional impact. That isn't to say that there weren't some moments of brilliance in the first Act. The choice to pair Marnie's tortured and broken mother with a solo viola created a sense of loneliness and desolation after the orchestral sea that had come before. We really understood the broken state of Marnie's mother.
Justin Davidson, Vulture: There are glimmers of a great opera contained in Marnie. The emotive heart of Act II takes place on a therapist's couch and, here, the collaboration between Mayer and Muhly reaches its apogee. Marnie's fragmented psyche appears in the form of five alter egos, all blonde, poised and indistinguishable except by their outfits, which are variously cerulean, emerald, gold, fuchsia, and orange. They take turns lying on the couch, then cluster on it together, and the apparitions surround Leonard with a high-voiced halo while she excavates her most awful memory. Here, Muhly shows that he can manage complexity, build up drama, and refract pain through a prism of lyric beauty. He pulls it off again later in the act, when Marnie, riding her beloved horse, joins a fox hunt that horrifies her so much that she lets her ride gallop out of control. These set pieces, in which the characters take their time, gliding inexorably towards disaster, jibe with Muhly's instincts as a composer.
Eric C. Simpson, NY Classical Review: In his Met debut, conductor Robert Spano did little to help illuminate Muhly's score. Looseness of ensemble made some of the clockwork orchestral figures sound chaotic. More generally, dynamics were limp, losing the opportunity to match dramatic power onstage with theatrical flair from the pit.