Brian Cummings (David), David et Jonathas, American Opera Theater
(workshop version, 2005)
Messiah | Ground | Acis and Galatea | La Didone
Charpentier, David et Jonathas, Les Arts Florissants, W. Christie
Anne Midgette, 'David' Slays a Grand Ambition (Washington Post, May 5)
Karren L. Alenier, The Angelic Voices of David and Jonathas (The Dressing, May 3)
Rebecca J. Ritzel, A Provocative Twist on the Bible and the Baroque (Washington Post, May 2)
Rebecca Duren, For the Record (A Soprano on Her Feet, May 3)
And David made this kind of lamentation over Saul, and over Jonathan his son. And he said: Consider, O Israel, for them that are dead, wounded on thy high places. The illustrious of Israel are slain upon thy mountains: how are the valiant fallen? Tell it not in Geth, publish it not in the streets of Ascalon: lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gelboe, let neither dew, nor rain come upon you, neither be they fields of firstfruits: for there was cast away the shield of the valiant, the shield of Saul as though he had not been anointed with oil. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the valiant, the arrow of Jonathan never turned back, and the sword of Saul did not return empty. Saul and Jonathan, lovely, and comely in their life, even in death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with scarlet in delights, who gave ornaments of gold for your attire. How are the valiant fallen in battle? Jonathan slain in the high places? I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan: exceeding beautiful, and amiable to me above the love of women. As the mother loveth her only son, so did I love thee. How are the valiant fallen, and the weapons of war perished?
As for the production, much more confusing than the homosexual love relationship of the title characters was the time setting. The Biblical backdrop, of course, is a war in the Middle East, between the ancient Israelites and the Philistines. Saul is trying to destroy the Philistines, and David helps him at first. As Saul becomes jealous of David's victories, David takes refuge with the Philistines for a time and puts together alliances on both sides. Nelson's production makes reference to modern political struggles in the Middle East, but not in any coherent way. The chorus is clothed in black cloaks and hoods -- burqas? the infamous garb of the Abu-Ghraib prisoners? -- and spends most of the performance behind a fence of posts and concertina wire. Are the two sides Iraq and the United States? Israel and the Palestinian Authority? It makes more of a mess of the story than helping to illuminate it.
American Opera Theater will take its production of David et Jonathas to the Brooklyn Academy of Music this weekend (May 9 and 10, 7:30 pm).
Vivian Schweitzer, Modernizing a Baroque French Opera (New York Times, May 13)
See also David et Jonathas: What were they smoking? (Cafeteria Rusticana, May 11) and Timothy Nelson's reaction to the Washington reviews -- especially the (edited) comment by Henry Holland.