Monday, November 12, 2018

Marnie the opera: a taut close-up look at a sociopath

If there’s one thing seeing the new opera Marnie made me appreciate, it’s watching opera on the big silver screen at your local cinema. What a way to immerse yourself close-up – as only televised viewers can see it – in the operatic dramatic action and performers’ voices, much more so than being in the New York Lincoln Center concert hall at the same time. Moreover, you get two bangs for the price of one. People who watch the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD, as I did Saturday at Windsor’s Cineplex Silver City, get a unique behind-the-scenes look at how the stage is set - the crew working feverishly to meet the opening curtain - and live interviews with the cast after they’ve just walked off the stage! This is the second time I’ve seen opera on the big screen, the last time was a Met production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers (2017)…...But Marnie, as an opera, is tantalizing indeed. It’s the same story that Alfred Hitchcock conjured up in his 1964 film of the same character (starring Tippi Hedren), based on the novel by Winston Graham. But this opera by Nico Muhly, with libretto by Nicholas Wright (Michael Mayer, director), hews closer to the book, and drills deep into the central character’s psyche to reveal a confused, indeed sociopathic, young woman.  Isabel Leonard (mezzo-soprano) is in the starring role. And she’s magnificent, not just in singing but in depicting the psychological inflections of Marnie, an office girl of the late 1950s who also happens to be a serial thief. Her fellow cast members such as Christopher Maltman as her boss and eventual husband Mark Rutland, and Iestyn Davies as his brother Terry Rutland, her sexual pursuer, round out boldly and strikingly the three key characters. But this can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it production is enhanced by a couple of things. There are two acts, as opposed to opera’s often three. And the production is tautly produced, with fantastic stage backdrops, quick scene resets and two small groups of characters. These are women who look almost exactly as Marnie, dressed in identically cut but different colored dresses – her alter egos or enablers, call them what you will. And then there’s the group of male figures, all in fedoras and looking like detectives, who shadowy stalk or spy on the damaged protagonist…...At least one more repeat performance is schedule for January 26. Treat yourself and check it out.

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