Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines
"It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd. In the intimate Blank Performing Arts Center space, we are not so much observing a wrenching drama as we are participating in it… I had never experienced an opera this large and active in such an intimate space, and director Kristine McIntyre did a masterful job filling every nook and cranny with meaningful action and carefully rehearsed “spontaneity” without putting us on sensory overload. Having successfully negotiated this huge group around that limited space, I think Ms. McIntyre is ready to be a traffic controller at O’Hare. But she also knew when to let her forces be still. When Lisa Hasson’s impeccable chorus and the soloists stood and poured out their climactic, overwhelming war cry in Act Two, it was electrifying in its raw emotion. Kristine also knows how to wring every conceivable variation out of well-motivated blocking, usage of levels, and meaningful character relationships. Each of the principals clearly understood the dynamic and arc of their roles, and the monologues were coached and crafted like one act plays. This was a remarkable directorial realization, one that nurtured faultless ensemble playing as well as encouraging stand-alone personal bests…
I have seen six other good productions of this piece over my years of opera going and I have always thought that, when all its planets align, it should make me weep but it never quite did. Well, Mission Accomplished. When Vere sang his final, diminishing statements, and the “sail” descended from above with its projection of rolling waves; and when the final projections first showed a silhouette of Billy’s hanging corpse, then morphed to Billy’s wrapped body floating to the depths, and then to Billy’s handsome face dissolving into the waves; well, this was a moment of surpassing beauty. And damn if the tears aren’t streaming again right now."
James Sohre, OperaToday, 13 Jul 2017
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