John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, which wowed audiences in its Met debut four years ago, is less an opera than a theatrical extravaganza, with an ingeniously eclectic, meticulously fashioned score that juxtaposes the Versailles of today and the Versailles of the French Revolution. Leading the cavalcade of ghosts that haunt the palace are Marie Antoinette and the playwright Beaumarchais, who’s been in love with the queen ever since she was guillotined. In a series of fanciful plot twists devised by librettist William Hoffman, Beaumarchais, whose class-conscious Figaro plays helped usher in the revolution, tries to alter the course of history so that he and the queen can escape to the New World, conjuring up familiar characters from The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville even as he re-creates Marie Antoinette’s trial. Hoffman’s conceit of pairing the reactionary royal with her literary nemesis is at once clever and cynical–The Ghosts of Versailles, after all, pretends to be opera buffa; it also allows Corigliano to strut his gift for vocal writing and his too-facile mimicry of styles from different periods. His music is a pleasing and amusing but ultimately lightweight accompaniment to the visual spectacle designed by John Conklin and mounted by Colin Graham. The colorful costumes and sets and the pantomime-inspired staging bring to mind Cirque du Soleil. Leading the well-cast vocal ensemble are baritone Hakan Hagegard and soprano Sheri Greenawald. The conductor is Leonard Slatkin. Saturday, Tuesday, and next Friday, October 20, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 332-2244, ext. 500.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Winnie Klotz.