Sunday afternoon was the third performance (the final was Monday evening) of
Peter Eotvos' new opera ANGELS in AMERICA at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
At the conclusion of the 2-1/2 hour work, the audience went insane, demanding
bow after bow from all the artists, composer/conductor, creative team and
Conductor: Peter Eotvos
Director- Philippe Calvario
Prior Walter: Daniel Belcher
Angel: Barbara Hendricks
Harper Amaty Pitt, Ethel Rosenberg, Antartic Angel: Julia Migenes
Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz, Henry, Hannnah Porter Pitt, Angel Asiatica: Roberta
Joe Pitt, Prior 2, The Moromon Father, Angel Europe: Omar Ebrahim
Mr. Lies, Belize, the Bronx Woman, Angel Africania, recorded voice of Caleb:
Dereck Lee Ragin
Roy Cohen, Prior 1, Oceania Angel: Donald Maxwell
Louis Ironson, Austrialia Angel: Topi Lehtipuu
Vocal trio- Claudine LeCoz, Isabelle Poinloup, Frederic Goncalves
It was odd to see such an American work being done in English in Paris;
indeed, I feel it is most important that its next incarnation be in the USA.
Although, the work is edited down to the bare necessities from the original 7 hour
epic plays, it does attempt and attain the basic goals of the original, perhaps
even more to an even wider audience not ready to sit through 6-7 hours. The
music includes just about everything from melodic to electronic. The entire
cast attains heights that I really had not expected. ROBERTA ALEXANDER is even
convincing (albeit) as a black rabbi in the opening scene, although someone
should tell the director that religious Jews don't have open coffins at funerals.
There were some very minor flaws that would not occur (I hope) if restaged in
the USA, such as a Louis with a British accent and a Roy Cohen that comes off
as being very white trash bourgeois. I would have also preferred a younger
The sets were basically modular, and got better and better as the show
progressed. The modules were brought on and off by a group of men who changed
clothes to set the scene: business suits for the Cohen office, orderly uniforms for
the hospital scenes, etc. This got even more inventive in the second act. The
split-scene format of the original is kept in the opera with many sections
becoming duets or ensembles between characters in different settings such as the
joint hallucination of Prior and Harper where his module set is pushed on with
his back to us at a makeup mirror. When he rises and turns, he is, of course,
in drag, but here in almost the same caftan/robe as Harper.
As the text of the work is so important, much of the composition is delivered
in a recitative-like mode with or without music, this guarantees complete
understanding of the work without sacrificing the words to the music. A superb
trio of singers is used in the pit for wonderful effect, such as singing "Oh,
no!" when Roberta Alexander, Cohen's (female) doctor (named Henry) delivers the
The first hearing of the angel transpires with feathers falling on Prior from
above with smoke coming up behind his bed, later she descends in a metal box
from above dressed in a white suit with white wings.
Julia MIGENES won major points in my book for her accent and portrayal of
Ethel Rosenberg as well as what is sure to become a definitive performance of
Harper. Boy, can this woman act, and the voice is still brilliantly all there.
Derek Lee RAGIN offered up some ingenious trans-gender portrayals as a
countertenor; now that's an old idea from the Baroque, but here he changes sexes all
night long. His Belize was dressed in gold velvet bellbottoms with high heeled
The cruising scene for Joe is beautifully handled with two "L" shaped
chain-link fences nested against each other creating an alleyway through which the
tricks and hustlers parade as Joe watches and then meets Louis. Again, the
supers were used here in another said of the varied costumes with them in tight
jeans and tank tops.
Act II has Ethel reappearing, this time in an electric chair that is wheeled
in, the rear bare brick wall has been replaced with a blue wall with two
flights of stairs cut into it and a door at the top. The angel returns, this time
with topless male angels in white hot pants and white wings (now I was thinking
PARIS!). The other soloists were now the various angels dressed in white
suits as well with different colored wings, as they argued how to save the earth
since God has abandoned them. The supers move the stairs out from the rear to
reveal stars in the back and angle it forward where the almost-naked angel boys
recline. Ms. HENDRICKS returns this time in black with white wings and a US
flag draped over her shoulder. Prior comes in and pretty much damns them all,
throws down his book of revelations and ascends the stairs and drops the robe
he has been given as "Prophet," and demands the angels' blessing. A wonderful
"Look up" comes from the three voices in the pit.
The final scene has the Black Angel now posing as if she were a fountain
(Bethesda Fountain in Central Park), the other angels have shed their coats and
wings which are now suspended in a circle in the center of the stage. They have
gone to sit on the steps.
At this point DANIEL BELCHER delivers a long final monologue that is the
final theme of the work. This is tough music with lots of high notes and jumps all
over the place, but he carries it off in a way that makes him the real star
of this work. Both the angel and he proclaim, "Long life," and as the winged
coats rise, "MORE LIFE" is projected on the back wall.
This work is truly meaningful, beautiful, tearful and uplifting and Mr.
Eotvos has given us just the right music to make it an operatic realization!
ALAN J SAVADA, C.T.C.
on the road with his laptop
[log in to unmask]
"Uns is gegeben, daß wir immer meinen, anderswo wäre das Glück, und so
beneiden wir alle, die anders sind."--Reisebuch aus den Österreichen Alpen by Ernst
It is our lot always to imagine that happiness lies elsewhere, and so we envy
all things that are different.
"The lure of travel set my heart afire"--Erich Korngold from DIE TOTE STADT
"If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you I came to
live out loud"--Emile Zola
****************LIFE IS A CABERNET!
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