It doesn't help that Gounod's setting is about as dusty as operas get, focusing more on the downfall (and ultimate redemption in death, of course) of Marguerite, than on Faust's own psychological struggle, this opera always comes off like a parody of a 19th-century morality play, which was only emphasized by Staley's design which could have been pulled straight out of a European theater from 150 years ago.
Connolly, whose prolific contribution to classical performance over the course of her career - a career that has now made her a household name - garnered palpable excitement from the audience from the moment she walked on stage. She carries a sense of poise and authority as a performer, yet showed great vulnerability.
"Handel wrote this role for castrato Gioacchino Conti, who was, by all accounts that I read, a complete freak of nature: he could allegedly sing high Cs (as in, C6), and while he preferred to sing roles with more lyrical material, he was known to be equally virtuosic in how he executed coloratura."
This production of The Rape of Lucretia was presented as one of BLO's now-signature installation operas: in this case, much of the action was concentrated on a relatively small circle in the center of the Arts for Humanity Epicenter building.
Seated precariously close in the second row, I probably had a dorky, star-struck look plastered on my face as I took in the high caliber classical singing.
When someone mentions Tchaikovsky's opera, the image in my head is of a starry-eyed Renée Fleming in a white nightgown in front of a clear blue background on a stage covered in thousands and thousands of gold and orange autumn leaves.
"I am also excited to have a predominantly female production team around me, made up of inspiring women with strong ideas and the conviction to realise them."
Audience stereotypes, flute-sex toy jokes, the inflated power of theatre ushers - it was all coming at me like a good roast. It was like that weird experience where someone tells you about yourself, picking out details that seem random or unexpected.
This was an example of intelligent, thoughtful programming, a wonderful way to showcase Ensemble Modern, and an opportunity to feature the work George Benjamin, a true household name by now.
This Ariodante exemplifies what I hope to see more of from the Lyric in future seasons: creative, specific staging performed by committed and compelling singer-actors, with top-notch direction in the pit.