January 5, 2013 – San Diego, California
LES TROYENS (Berlioz)
Fabio Luisi; Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Karen Cargill, Bryan Hymel,
Eric Cutler, Dwayne Croft, Kwangchul Youn
Preparing this week for Les Troyens brought back memories of Latin class at my convent high school, a clutch of young girls in powder-blue uniforms translating Virgil’s Aeneid for a bird-like little nun called Mother O’Brien. I also pictured sailing with Brent, decades later, around the Aegean-Mediterranean Sea within miles of the ruins of both ancient Troy and Carthage – Troy along the west coast of Turkey near Ephesus; and Carthage in modern-day Tunis, directly south of the island of Sardinia where we made port. So we have a good idea of the scale of Aeneas’ wanderings.
Historically, Berlioz’ five-act, five-hour masterpiece has been as daunting as the Aeneid itself. In San Diego today, we counted 68 stalwarts present at the early curtain time of 9:00 am (though by the usual start time an hour later, another twenty or so had taken seats in the dark). Our little band was rewarded with a riveting performance by a cast seemingly assembled by the gods, including the always-magnificent Susan Graham as Queen Dido in love and anguish. And what about the handsome young stand-in tenor with the glorious voice, Louisiana-native Bryan Hymel, as Aeneas? Could there have been anyone more superbly heroic? His last-minute Met debut on December 26 was reportedly as exciting as that of Jay Hunter Morris last season in Siegfried – legendary and truly thrilling – and he was astoundingly good today.