The Ghosts of Versailles

This made-for-TV document of John Corigliano's first (and only) opera mounted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, in 1991, does a credible job of keeping the focus on the singing and of showing the spectacle onstage without too many distracting cutaways. The fanciful tale, inspired by Beaumarchais' “Figaro” trilogy, has Beaumarchais himself falling in love with Marie Antoinette in the afterworld, then going back in time in an attempt to save her from the guillotine. Throughout this two-act grand opera buffa, Corigliano quotes from Mozart's and Rossini's adaptations as he brings back Figaro, Susanna, and the Almavivas, and he makes plenty of references to Richard Strauss and Puccini. It's a clever pastiche of styles, with lots of tuneful, heartfelt arias and duets, and though there are way too many plot twists, set pieces, and postmodern winks, William Hoffman's libretto has a touch of poetry. The cast, well handled by Colin Graham, includes Teresa Stratas, Renee Fleming, Hakan Hagegard, Gino Quilico, and Marilyn Horne, and James Levine's conducting brings out both the flamboyance and loveliness of the score. Brian Large pointed the video cameras at the action. 177 min.

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