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Subject: Terrific Thais takes a bow at the Met after a long absence(11-11-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 12 Nov 2017 09:43:52 -0500

text/plain (84 lines)

It's been near a decade since this Thais production opened and it is surely the time to bring it back and what a terrific vehicle it is for Ailyn Perez(disclaimer:she is a client) & Gerald Finely both in a monstrously successful role debuts. Putting the French conductor, Maestro Villaume (disclaimer:client) in charge was the true icing on a perfectly baked cake! From my box seat I could see the great Martina Arroyo seated below and it seemed she too enjoyed the afternoon. I was truly saddened though, during the intermission, to read of Fran Corsaro's passing, what a terrific director and brilliant mind.

Conductor-Emmanuel Villaume

Production-John Cox

Original costumes for Thais-Christian Lacroix

Lighting-Duane Schuler

Choregography-Sara Jo Slate

Thais-Ailyn Perez

Nicias-Jean-Francois Borras

Athanael-Gerald Finley

Palemon-David Pittsinger

Gurad-Jeongcheol Cha

Crobyle-France Bellemare

Myrtale-Megan Marino

La Charmeuse-Deanna Breiwick

Albine-Sara Couden

Solo Dancer-Syrena Nikole

Violin Solo-David Chan

There is a show curtain of dark clouds whirling around a small sky of blue that reminded me of the painting on our living room ceiling(but our's has Bacchus and cherubs!) The curtain rises to a group of Nazirite-like monks clad in blank all with long unruly hair on a curvy erratic deeply raked stage that is meant to be a desert of sand, with lots of large rock-like pieces that resemble giant pottery shards; it works! "Chaque matin" starts the work with Mr. Pittsinger's deep full bass; I was sorry he just didn't get to sing more. Mr. Finley's opening aria of his being a monk in the desert climaxed with a glorious "a  Dieu!" and then he slept with a rock as his pillow while the vision of Thais was at the rear (not visible from my box seat, save for some veils and sequins every fleeting moment). Before he heads off to save her, Palemon warns him not to meddle with the secular world; like he is going to listen. There is a superb a capella chant for the monks as they exit and Athanael heads to Alexandria.

Three tall royal palms are in the courtyard of Nicias' house with a golden ramp going from bottom left to top right where a large blue wall has a door in it. Behind is a curvilinear Moorish golden lattice wall screen.Athanael enters to curse the terrible city of sin in the most self-righteous of ways adding science and beauty to the sins....a bit Trumpish if you ask me. Nicias enters in a floor-length flowing robe of gold and black stripes over his formal shirt, slacks and vest; there was a hint of 19th century French Empire crossed with Egyptian flair making this production so beautiful. He has his servant girls seductively dress Athanael for his meeting with Thais while they all sing a quartet; his outfit is a bit shaggy to me. The chorus enters with the women in more quas-EMpire/Egyptian garb and the mean in formal wear with a fez, turban or "Sphinx-like" hat here and there.

"C'est Thais" is Ms. Perez' entrance and she was a knockout in a slinky gold gown with the bottom looking like super-soft chain mail of gold with a train and the top sequined and all covered by a red velvet cape with billowing shoulders. She looked drop dead GORGEOUS!  The choristers and servants tie Athanael in a garland jokingly with a flower crown as the act ends with Thais planting a huge kiss right on his lips.

Act II had the blue wall now at the rear with stairs up to an entry doorway. At the bottom was a 2-step circular platform with a large Empire/Egyptian-style sleigh bed. Thais was in an orangey classy flowing negligee in front of a large free-standing mirror. "Dis  moi que je suis belle" had her reflecting on her own mortality and beginning to question her lifestyle, but she quickly moves to a free standing incense burner offering up her prayers to Venus in the aria's slower section. The ending, "reponds moi" had Ms. Perez sending tingles through my spine with her luscious soprano. Athanael arrives and offers her endless happiness if she turns to God. The ensuing duet has them each praying to their respective gods. In a move that was reminiscent of a modern day faith healer or preacher, he strips off his laurel and robes and raises his hand to Thais as if to cure her. The scene ends as she grabs him and their voices ring, "Pitie!"

As soon as she send Athaneal off to repel Nicias' attempt to seduce her again, she changes her mind.

I could see the chorus assembling in the pit and the ensuing Meditation gave us the superb orchestral selection under Maestro Villaume's delicate touch with David Chan on the violin and harpist Emmanuel Ceysson giving us some of the most blissful moments in opera.

The scene changes to a large cylindrical building with a huge Egyptian ornate golden doorway raised up on the undulating sands we saw in the opening scene. Thais emerges from her home for "L'amour est une vertu rare," and she has seemingly changed her mind back (how fickle is she?) and then re-enters her palace with Athanael intending to burn it down. Nicias arrives with his party-goers with a belly dancer clad in black velvet which she removes for her enticing dance as Ms.Breiwick delivered a gorgeous vocalise.

The doors open and smoke purs out from the palace and Thais emerges now in a sackcloth like black robe over her worn red gown and the crowd grabs at them as they try to escape. Nicias fends off the crowd and tosses coins at them to assuage their greed as Thais cries "Adieu pour jamais!"

Act III had the undulating sands split by a small "stream" and a little plank over it with the nuns in white outside their convent to the right. They remove the plank to disallow access across the divide and enter the building, a stucco wall with a doorway. Athanael & Thais enter from the rear, stumbling and exhausted as she seems about to die and falls numerous times as he forces her onwards. She falls lifeless and he sees her bleeding feet which softens his fanaticism. Strains of the Meditation return as Thais joins Athaneal praying to God.

The nuns emerge and Thais rises to enter the convent as he worn robe falls to reveal her off the shoulder bedraggled dress all torn, but boy did she still look good, even cov. ered with dirt. Her ensuing farewell as the Mother Albine's deep voice intoned "Amen"  (think Amneris in the final scene of Aida) was a fabulous and moving moment as we hear reprises of the Meditation and Athanael cries, "Je ne la verrai plus!" realizing he will never see her again.

During the short pause someone in the audience gave a horrible almost scary cough and Maestro Villaume waved his handkerchief in the air which got a bunch of laughs from the audience.

The scene changes to one similar to the opera's opening with fewer of the large pottery shard/rocks with the monks assembled. Athanael enters and confesses to Palemon that he is obsessed with Thais, which pretty much gets him an "I told you so!" He sleeps and dreams of Thais who appears in the shadows in a golden outfit with baggy Aladdin-like pants: "Qui te fait si severe." She lays on Athanael and invokes Venus as the monk seemingly has an orgasm in his sleep waking him and he hears the chorus offstage announcing that Thais is dying.

The final scene has the Meditation returning again over and over (you can never hear enough of this tune!), but here on the flute, then harp and strings. Thais sits atop an altar-like structure on a raised platform of the undulating sand. She is whitefaced with and almost glowing pallor and in a long white gown almost unconscious; she reminded me of an effigy of Evita at death. Candles are lit around the base and the nuns stand with lanterns. In an almost trance, she calls on God, the one true love as Athanael tells her he was all wrong, and the he loves her and she protests  that he love is for God alone. The climax of this finale was beautifully staged and we believed as if Thais was dead to start and revives only to repel the monk as the music mounts and crescendos with hints of the Meditation weaving through. It was an amazingly moving moment and we all indeed felt drained, yet satisfied with this electric performance, especially by the two amazing leads who truly never failed to impress over the entire performance. It is indeed good to Thais back at the Met!

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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