At the Ordway. Dates: April 16, 17, 19, 21 and 23, 2011
The composer of Wuthering Heights, Bernard Herrmann, is best known for the film scores he wrote for some of the most well respected directors in movie history, including Hitchcock, Welles and Scorsese. Less famous is his one and only opera based on Emily Bronte’s novel of the same name, which last saw production 30 years ago in Portland.
The Minnesota Opera’s treatment is a mixture of technologically amazing production techniques and subtle pastiche. Opera is already a multimedia art form, but with the use of gigantic 3D projections of figures and atmospheric background—snow, rain, the moor—they extend the multimedia aspect of opera into something cinematic and altogether new and strange. This unusual cinematic quality feeds perfectly into the tone of the work, which is not only the result of the projections but the music being written by a brilliant score composer. The plot is more movie-like than many famous operas, where the plot typically seems more of a vehicle for the rest of the work than interesting in itself.
But it’s the complexity of tone that makes Wuthering Heights so compelling. The Minnesota Opera has somehow reconstructed the pastiche of an classic film that’s trying to be a period piece, but can’t detach itself from its own time. The whole production feels like it could be a dark 1950s melodrama if the characters were not singing their lines. This situates the audience in an odd, almost otherworldy space; a ghostly, drifting piece of long dead culture lingers in front of them like a dream. It answers to the haunting tragedy of Wuthering Heights as much as Herrmann’s scores reflect and embellish the films they musically narrate.
For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.mnopera.org.