with Scott Hendricks, Raymond Very
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Patrick Summers, Conductor
Tod Machover’s opera Resurrection (based on the Leo Tolstoy novel of the same name) presents an overall impression of tough personal and political issues expressed through music that’s essentially soft of heart. Ambling lyrical lines evoke images of a conference call between Barber, Bernstein, and Sondheim, moderated by John Adams. Act 2’s opening march similarly tows a musical canvass suggesting the brooding side of Shostakovich filtered through his American Hollywood imitators. Choral Baroque pastiches are cleverly constructed, say what they need to say, and make their exits.
While a libretto is provided, you really don’t need one. The story line’s dramatic tension and characters’ inner needs come across through Machover’s exceptionally clear text settings. Computer-enhanced sound sources supplement the modest, unplugged instrumental forces: sometimes with subtle underpinning of bass lines, other times in ways where “effects” pull focus from the composer’s deft and transparent orchestrations, such as in Act 2’s flogging scene. The solo singing is outstanding, notably in the principal roles. Scott Hendricks’ ringing tenor is just right for Prince Nekhlyudov, and soprano Joyce DiDonato creates a moving, multidimensional portrait of Katerina. Those who know Tod Machover’s hard-hitting, angular electronic musical theater pieces, like Valis, will probably be surprised by Resurrection and increasingly moved as the work progresses. –Jed Distler
Release date: February 26, 2002
Number of Discs: 2
Label: Albany records