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21.11.05

Audiences Walk out on Tippett in Chicago, Too

Michael Tippett, The Midsummer Marriage, Lyric Opera of Chicago, November 2005In my brief look at the Covent Garden production of Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage last week, I suspected that critical reaction would not be overwhelmingly positive for the new production of the opera at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Well, reviews are coming in, and here's what critics have to say. Wynne Delacoma, in her article (Lyric's 'Marriage' lovely but so confusing, November 21) for the Chicago Sun-Times, admired the music and the performance but lamented one thing in particular:

However, there is one compelling reason to think twice before heading off to "The Midsummer Marriage." Tippett's libretto, which he wrote himself, is one of the silliest, most bafflingly overloaded pieces of philosophical babbling in all of opera. And that is saying something for an art with a high tolerance for the ridiculous in its written texts. [...] Opera lovers are more than willing to [put aside all demands of logic], but too often in "The Midsummer Marriage," we simply had no idea what Tippett is talking about. We knew some kind of quest was going on, but for what and why, the composer gives us very few clues.
John von Rhein's review ('Midsummer' muddle, November 21) for the Chicago Tribune is no less critical, and the audience apparently abandoned the hall early, just as they did in London:
Peel away the layers of Jungian psychology, opaque symbolism and artful dodgery in Michael Tippett's "The Midsummer Marriage" and you find yourself wondering where the opera is hiding. Despite an excellent cast and splendid new production, the numbers of people who left early at Lyric Opera's opening performance Saturday at the Civic Opera House were not an encouraging omen. [...] Now, a superior composer like Benjamin Britten could breathe stage-life into so high-falutin' a conceit. But Tippett, for all his musical craft, was a miserable dramatist. The opera cloaks itself in florid self-importance, yet the storyline is nonsensical and the characters thin.
By my count, that is both critics of the major Chicago newspapers advising readers not to purchase tickets. A swing and a miss! This does not mean that I would pass up the chance to see and hear the mish-mash myself (especially in what certainly appears to be a visually diverting production), but it appears I had better do it right now in Chicago if I want to at all. The production will run through December 16.

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