Magazine article Opera Canada

Ensemble Parallele

Magazine article Opera Canada

Ensemble Parallele

Article excerpt

The Great Gatsby by John Harbison had a splashy premiere at the Metropolitan Opera, followed immediately by the Lyric Opera of Chicago and a revival at the Met in 2002. And then, silence. In February, San Francisco's Ensemble Parallels, superbly conducted by its founder Nicole Paiement, gave the piece new life. Paiement and collaborator Jacques Desjardins are Canadians who have staged chamber versions of several important operas for San Francisco--most recently Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts (reviewed in Opera Canada, Winter 2011). Their revival of Gatsby was resourceful insofar as Oesjardins' reduced version--made with Harbison s advice about cuts--impressively paraphrased and restated the original orchestration, while keeping the crucial on-stage band for party scenes and reminiscences. Ensemble Parallelle in effect produced a new world premiere.

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The opera gets oft to a slow start before a big party at Gatsby s bursts onto the stage, with perfect 1920s songs composed in style by Harbison. Brian Staufenbiel's direction, with designs and costumes by Matthew Antaky and Christine Crook, allowed the mood to build across scenes that portray the rich arriviste Gatsby renewing his youthful low for the endlessly fascinating Daisy and end with his shooting death as the consequence of a convoluted tale involving a sordid affair between Daisy's husband, Tom, and Myrtle, the wife of a garage mechanic. …

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