Review: The Met Woos and Wins With Its Season Finale of ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’
By Brian Taylor, Contributing Writer, May 14, 2017
Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac entered the repertoire of the Metropolitan Opera in 2005, at the championing of Placido Domingo, and in Francesca Zambello’s expertly directed production makes a strong case for it remaining in the house’s rotation.
Zambello seems to excel at finding the heart of the story, and directing the singers to embody their characters in three dimensions. The picturesque scenic design (by Peter J. Davidson) suited the deep stage and dimensions of the opera house satisfyingly, and the production on a whole is blessedly traditional in tone, sparing us any conceptual conceits or post-modern rethinking.
Edmond Rostand’s classic play, adapted into a smart, flowing libretto by Henri Cain (who wrote the libretti for many Massenet operas), makes a great opera. The composer Alfano is best remembered as having finished Puccini’s Turandot. That may have proved a thankless task in the annals of musical history, but his score for Cyrano is a winner. Rooted in the verismo style, but with a musical palette awake to the early twentieth century. The score’s sweep foreshadows a sound that would come to be associated with film music, bringing to mind the film scores of Erich Korngold and even John Williams.
Roberto Alagna was in superb voice, and portrayed Cyrano with élan, finding the natural humor in the character’s depth and contradictions. The opera’s second tenor, Atalla Ayan as the inarticulate Christian, sang beautifully and provided the ideal foil for Cyrano’s panache. The humor in the pivotal balcony scene which concludes the second act had a refreshing sense of spontaneity.
As Roxanne, Jennifer Rowley, in what will hopefully be the first of many lead roles at the Met, dazzled. Her physically expressive performance conveyed details of character that reached the back rows of the house. Her French diction was excellent, as she and Alagna communicated with flair and immediacy, and her beaming soprano vibrated magnificently, of one piece from the bottom to the top.
Conductor Marco Armiliato led a dramatically keen reading of the imaginatively orchestrated score (which made arresting use of a piano in the instrumentation), which this listener will be eager to hear again.
Cyrano de Bergerac at the Metropolitan Opera House, May 2-13, 2017. Music by Franco Alfano; libretto by Henri Cain. Conducted by Marco Armiliato. Production by Francesca Zambello; set design by Peter J. Davison; costume design by Anita Yavich; Natasha Katz; Rick Sordelet; choreography by Thomas Baird. Cast: Jennifer Rowley (Roxane); Roberto Alagna (Cyrano); Atalla Ayan (Christian); Juan Jesús Rodríguez (De Guiche).
Cover: Jennifer Rowley as Roxane and Roberto Alagna as Cyrano in ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ at the Metropolitan Opera; photo Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.