Review: ‘The Hours’ Returns to the Met Opera With Its Stars

Kevin Puts’s “The Hours,” which had its stage premiere at the Metropolitan Opera last season and returned for its first revival on Sunday, is even prettier than I remember.

In the often exquisite score, the strings throb and the woodwinds flutter. When Puts reaches for percussion instruments, he chooses the sweeter ones — glockenspiel, crotales, chimes, vibraphone — and combines them luxuriously. Woodwinds at the top of Act II are practically Wagnerian in their extravagant stateliness. Tender piano chords toll lonesomely. Musical surges are thick with nostalgia. The luscious vocal lines revel in love, and understanding, of the human voice.

But it’s easy to miss the score’s manifold beauties when the stage is full of distractions. Extraneous dancers and supernumeraries flood Phelim McDermott’s production at the Met. In one moment, the choreographer Annie-B Parson has them twirl around holding pillows while a character considers killing herself in a hotel room. Adding to the busyness, Puts heavily features the chorus as a collective, omniscient narrator and the characters’ inner voices. As a device, it doesn’t work; while the story intimately intertwines the emotional lives of three women, the chorus infringes upon their connection with the audience.

It’s almost as though Puts and McDermott are afraid to take a sustained look at their heroines, or that they don’t trust the audience’s attention span. This is especially perplexing considering they have three leads on the order of Renée Fleming, Kelli O’Hara and Joyce DiDonato, who reprised their roles on Sunday. When the stage was free of clutter, their star wattage was dazzling.

As Virginia Woolf, DiDonato was a haunted, magisterial presence. Her voice, dark, fulsome and cutting, communicated Woolf’s intellectual depth and her personal demons; there was the insight and occlusion of a novelist at the height of her powers hiding her suicidal ideations from others. As Laura, O’Hara sang with a voice of fine crystal, and while her timbre was a little cloudier than it used to be, she embodied Laura’s fragile nerves and anxious self-loathing. The overall shape of Fleming’s voice remained improbably youthful in its creamy roundness. Her Clarissa was patrician yet superficial, though partial blame rests with the libretto, in which every other word of hers is “flowers” or “party.”

Back to top button