Emperor that is! I must admit it was a real challenge to get through Tan Dun "The First Emperor" last night. I didn't have high hopes, and the hopes a did have were certainly not met. Tan Dun's score was not without some beautiful moments, but generally lacked the ingenuity and brilliance of his earlier works and really seemed to sell out to the lowest common denominator. The piece itself had all the human triviality an banality of a "Don Carlo" or "Roberto Devereux" (bothy of which I love), but non of the musical or dramatic witicism to make up for it (and thats why). All and all an plot not worth watching.
Elizabeth Futral sang quite lovely with what see was given to do. Most impressive was Paul Groves. Neither of these could make up for Pladido Domingo. The voice isn't what I would look for, but it is still strong (completely inappropriate for this music though). What was terrible was his attempt at acting. It must be said that the director takes ultimate responsibility for that, but this was classic externalized non-emotion that the Met has perfected...art worn on the sleeve and certainly not felt in any meaningful way. If those loyal, lovely, and large audiences at the Met had any idea what they were missing, I'm sure things would change there in a hurry. I imagine with Mortier across the plaza that just might happen.
I must add to this that the lighting design by Duane Schuler and set design by Fan Yue were awe inspiring and quite beautiful. Had the rest of the production lived up to the visual design perhaps this would have been more than simply another Met "shock and awe" campaign, but alas director Zhang Yimou failed to impress. It is clear that the Met put together names like Dun, Yimou, and Domingo, failing to think about whether any of them were qualified for the particular project.
Bigger isn't better...better is better.