A View from the Bridge – Metropolitan Opera (9 December)

A View from the Bridge [an opera in two acts with libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Arthur Miller, based on the play by Arthur Miller]

Alfieri –– John Del Carlo
Louis – Dale Travis
Mike – Tony Stevenson
Eddie – Kim Josephson
Catherine – Isabel Bayrakdarian
Beatrice – Catherine Malfitano
A Woman – Lynn Taylor
A Man – Glenn Bater
Tony – Charles Reid
Rodolpho – Gregory Turay
Marco – Richard Bernstein
An Old Woman – Carole Wright
First Officer – Patrick Carfizzi
Second Officer – Bernard Fitch

New York Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra
Dennis Russell Davies

Production & Stage Director – Frank Galati
Set and Costume Designer – Santo Loquasto
Lighting Designer – Duane Schuler
Projection Designer – Wendall Harrington
Fight Director – Felix Ivano

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 9 December, 2002
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, New York City

Arthur Miller’s drama, A View from the Bridge, a story in which family betrayal, latent sexual obsession, paranoia, envy, homophobia, and other smoldering, unresolved feelings are expressed in a series of confrontations, is an ideal vehicle for an opera. The play is set in Brooklyn, New York and tells the story of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman, unconsciously attracted to his young niece Catherine, whom he and his wife Beatrice have raised from a baby. When Eddie takes Marco and Rodolpho, two of Beatrice’s cousins and both illegal immigrants, under his roof, the scene is set for disaster. Eddie’s simultaneous attraction to his niece and envy of Rodolpho, who plans to marry her, lead him to alienate himself from both family and community and eventually lead to his own murder.

William Bolcom’s opera A View from the Bridge was originally commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago and received its premiere there in 1999. In exchange for the Chicago production, the Metropolitan Opera has sent its 1999 production of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby to Chicago. The December 9 Metropolitan Opera performance of View, the second of seven to be staged through December 28, revealed a respectful, emotionally-charged and musically exciting rendition of Miller’s play. The conductor and director of the original production came with the opera to the Met, as did the original set and costume designs by Santo Loquasto and photographic projections by Wendall Harrington.

Loquasto’s set is a marvel. Vast expanses representing the Brooklyn Bridge and the dockyards of the Red Hook section of Brooklyn contrast with Eddie and Beatrice’s tiny, cramped apartment. Three large screens accommodate Harrington’s rolling projections of Brooklyn tenements and landscapes, which lend a heightened sense of reality to the production.

The libretto, written by Arnold Weinstein and Arthur Miller, draws on two versions of Miller’s play: a one-act version originally conceived along the lines of a modern Greek tragedy and produced on Broadway in 1955, and the full-length play later mounted by Peter Brook in London. The basic elements of the story remain unchanged, but the drama of the opera is heightened by the presence of a kind of Greek chorus consisting of Eddie’s Italian-American neighbors led by the lawyer Alfieri, who serves as the story’s narrator. Weinstein and Miller condensed most of the scenes of the play. The result is an unusually fast paced work, tightly constructed and constantly moving ahead.

The opera opens with a brief instrumental introduction, an energetic series of falling fourths that sets the mood for Bolcom’s highly accessible and eclectic score. The composer intersperses a wide variety of American popular music forms – from barbershop harmony to 1950s doo-wop – with Italian lyricism. There are many effective moments – for example, midway in the first act when Sicilian immigrant Rodolpho serenades his newly adopted city in the aria ’The New York Lights’. Prominent among the many pop echoes in the score is the 1943 hit song, “Paper Doll”, first sung in a semi-operatic rendition by Rodolpho, and later in a rock-and-roll style recording danced to by Catherine and Rodolpho. The Metropolitan Opera production also includes two additional arias, one in which Beatrice confronts Eddie about the disintegration of their marriage (’Eddie, when am I gonna be a wife again?’), and one (’Because I made a promise’) in which Eddie describes why he is so protective of Catherine.

While there are a few differences between the Chicago and New York casts, the principals are the same—Catherine Malfitano as Beatrice, Kim Josephson as Eddie, and Gregory Turay as Rodolpho. Isabel Bayrakdarian reprises the role of Catherine, which she took over in the middle of the Chicago run. The singers, working together as a well-honed ensemble, were all excellent. Catherine Malfitano once again reaffirmed her talents as an extraordinary singing actress, and Kim Josephson’s big, bold baritone never strikes a false note. Gregory Turay as Rodolpho and Richard Bernstein as Marco gave particularly moving performances. Isabel Bayrakdarian was a bright-voiced Catherine. John Del Carlo brought his beautiful bass-baritone and commanding stage presence to the role of the lawyer Alfieri.

As with the singers, no fault could be found with the orchestra. Conductor Dennis Russell Davies elicited a dazzling display of instrumentalism from the orchestra in an absolutely solid performance.

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