‘The Hours’ Turns Again, From Book to Movie to All-Star Opera

It is most striking and effective in the Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra’s operatic adaptation of The Hours (until December 15), directed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, that he takes full advantage of the fact that his three main female characters are on stage.

That physical proximity, and Phelim McDermott’s intelligent reading of Michael Cunningham’s best-selling novel (the score is by Kevin Puts and the libretto by Greg Pierce), bring the letters and echoes to intimate and fascinating life. between the feminist novelist Virginia Woolf (Joyce DiDonato). in 1923, Laura Brown (Kelli O’Hara), a housewife in Los Angeles in 1949, and book editor Clarissa Vaughan (Renée Fleming) in New York in 1999.

The form of books and film means that this shared presence is impossible; here instead we see scenes and voices sometimes overlapping, or characters remaining on the stage in silent or semi-frozen repose, while another character plays a scene.

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The novel is the main recurring narrative between the periods Mrs. Dalloway. Woolf writes it in her share; Laura reads it in her; and not only does Clarissa share the main character’s first name, but she (like the original Mrs. D) is planning a party – this one for Richard (Kyle Ketelson), her longtime friend and novelist with AIDS, who has had enough of his life. . He even calls her Mrs. Dalloway – modern day Clarissa seems to have the charisma of her old fiction.

Just as in Cunningham’s novel and Stephen Daldry’s award-winning 2002 film (for which Nicole Kidman won an Oscar as Woolf), we follow one day in the lives of the three women. As you take your seats, a large clock on the stage shows the actual time ticking.

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On stage, a modest proportion of each woman’s homes (set and costumes by Tom Pye) celebrate them and their centuries. The three slices of ring that are specific to the era are very unspecific, but the drapes that appear heavily around them add to the trends in time and situation ahead. We have a yellow sun in Laura’s kitchen where she is determined to bake a cake for her husband Dan (Brandon Cedel), with the help of her son Richie (a young Kai Edgar), but we immediately see her lying on the bed Laura’s depression and anxiety. . She loves her family, but she is crumbling inside.

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Suicide, the ghost and the unhappiness, disturb the three women. Leonard Woolf (Sean Panikkar) is afraid that Virginia will harm herself directly or indirectly – DiDonato plays her clothes with anger at violations, at the desperate ministrations of her husband and maid Nelly (Eve Gigliotti) to eat. She wants to write, to be left alone, and then suicidal fantasies begin to stalk her. Meanwhile Clarissa, who lives with her partner Sally (Denyce Graves) in a loft with brick walls, is dressed in angelic white. It may be just one day, but for all three women, times of change are about to emerge. They share restlessness, desire, depression, determination – and all the while fighting an invisible clock.

Kelli O’Hara as Laura Brown, Renée Fleming as Clarissa Vaughan, and Joyce DiDonato as Virginia Woolf in ‘The Hours.’

Evan Zimmerman / Met Opera

The opera is approximately three hours long, with one intermission. The first half is about two hours, the last about an hour – meaning that the first half, or the most infamous parts of the film, have the languorous feel of a novel. Some, like this critic, can enjoy the slow world; some may find it a drag.

Unlike its two predecessors, the opera introduces a strange human chorus to fill the stage. This chorus seems to reflect the anxieties and pressures of the women, and feels rude and unnecessary, except when doing something visually ingenious such as being raising many flowers in the air – flowers as a main symbol in mrs dalloway and in The Hours, of sadness, joy, and reflection. The chorus, dressed in gray, marches and flows this way and that, like a kind of army of misery. If the presence is symbolic it is transcended and transcended; the women tell us how they feel, after all.

What Clarissa’s unexpected kiss with florist Barbara (Kathleen Kim) means is Clarissa’s lesser-known B-story, her failed relationship with Sally – for this critic one of the most unfair characters on the stage. Clarissa tells us how much she wants to get over the relationship, but we never see Sally wisely and quietly supporting her partner – well what’s wrong with them, and why she’s “stupid ,” as Clarissa calls her, never is. made clear. Sally, and Denyce Graves, deserve better.

It was understandable that the audience at the opening gala on Tuesday night were very happy to see three such big stars together on the stage, and the constant statements were duly delivered. O’Hara made the most convincing role for the audience, giving The Hours‘ the most interesting strand of her vital heart, and also leads to one of the show’s most striking moments – her transformation from young Laura to old Laura right in front of us, as she prepares to meet Clarissa , and we can see that we are the little Richie. see in the 1950s the adult Richard in 1999. DiDonato gave Woolf a keen sense of authority – meeting-other. Fleming’s voice seemed more relaxed, which – along with her character’s constantly tortured and tormented expression – slightly froze the delivery of her performance.

The second half shines or shines too quickly from one emotional movement to another to a weak conclusion.

As a result of the most tragic event on stage – and we are told again and again that someone will die today – it felt like a rush to find hope, a strange choice that weakened as The Hours on to its conclusion.

The opera notably also decides not to change one of the most shocking sequences of the film adaptation – Virginia’s suicidal walk into the river, which begins and ends the film. Instead, we see a kind of combination of some of her last words, and words that Leonard said when he finds her on the platform of a train station – and she ends up staying until the end of the opera.

The stories of the three women are told so faithfully and carefully in the first half, the second half shines or shines too quickly from one emotional movement to another to a weakly announced conclusion – which , far from being an understandable suicide, is a general diagnosis. that life is life, and we are all here living it, and we should make the most of it with love and the people around us. The film chose death as its final theme, the opera chooses life.

This, while brilliantly and beautifully sung by DiDonato, O’Hara, and Fleming – their characters now connected after overcoming the limitations of time – seemed like a sad final note, irrelevant to the sublime emotional knots and questioning of what preceded it. Maybe The Hours could do with one more hour – and one more intervention – to give women the time they need to reach richer destinations.


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