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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Marnie

Nico Muhly adapts Hitchcock's 1964 "suspenseful sex mystery" Marnie for the operatic stage. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
She'll steal your heart: Isabel Leonard is Marnie in a new opera by Nico Muhly.
Photo © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.

Nico Muhly's second opera for the Met is Marnie, the story of an obsessive relationship that leads to marriage and other interpersonal disasters.

What is Marnie?
This is an operatic adaptation of the novel of the same title by Winston Graham, which was famously filmed by Alfred Hitchcock (starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery) in 1964. It is Nico Muhly's third opera. (On a side note, while the Metropolitan Opera plans its seasons five years in advance, mounting a stage work that celebrates an abusive relationship in this era strikes this writer as being spectacularly tone-deaf.)
Poster for the 1964 film Marnie © 1964 Universal Pictures.
What's the story?
Marnie is a character study of a marriage between an obsessive control freak and a beautiful kleptomaniac who suffers from panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder. (In some ways, Marnie is similar to the Janet Leigh character in Psycho.) Marnie may be beautiful, but the dark secrets of her past ain't pretty. (And yes, there is a terrible secret, but we're not going to blow that one for you in this paragraph.)

Tell me something else interesting?
Although the role of Marnie was famously played by "Hitchcock blonde" Tippi Hedren (who also starred in The Birds) it was written for Grace Kelly. However, she married the Prince of Monaco and her loyal subjects did not want Princess Grace playing a kleptomaniac. Filming Marnie was such a difficult experience that Ms. Hedren never worked for Alfred Hitchcock again.

What's the music like?
Mr. Muhly's music owes something to his mentor Philip Glass. His first opera Two Boys (and I'm quoting myself here) featured "endless repeating arpeggios, exotic tuned percussion and busy figurations in the strings." His second opera Dark Sisters used a "musical idiom incorporating  American hymns, folk music, Adams-style melodic fragments and straight melodic lines."

Who's in it?
The title role of Marnie Edgar will be sung by Isabel Leonard in all performances. No, she's not a Hitchcock blonde. Her husband Mark Rutland(the Connery role) will be sung by utility baritone Christopher Maltman. The part of Marnie's mother marks a welcome return to the Met stage for mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. Robert Spano conducts.

How's the production?
Dunno yet. This is a new opera and a new production by Michael Mayer, who made a stunning Met debut a few years ago with a production of Rigoletto set in Las Vegas. Mr. Muhly's two previous operas made extensive use of multimedia back-projections so that should definitely be a factor in the presentation of the very cinematic Marnie.

When does Marnie open?
Marnie opens Oct. 19 for a run of just six performances. The Met Live in HD performance captures the last show of the run, a matinée at 12:55pm on Nov. 10.

Where do I get tickets?
Tickets are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save some money on service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza.

Box office hours are: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Which recordings do you recommend?
Ahhh. You've got me there. This is a new opera so there aren't any recordings yet of it or its music. 

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