Christie's sparkling 'David et Jonathas' at BAM

NEW YORK (AP) — There is a moment in Andreas Homoki's staging of "David et Jonathas," where Jonathas sings of his world closing in around him.

He is torn between duty to his father, King Saul, and his lifelong friend and lover, David — the Goliath slayer and future king.

"A-t-on jamais souffert une plus rude peine," he says, roughly translating to "Has anyone ever suffered a harsher sentence?"

And the walls slowly close in on him, inducing spine-tingling claustrophobia for the character and the audience.

Homoki's simple yet sparkling staging of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's 1688 Biblical tragedy, premiered by conductor William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at last summer's Aix-en-Provence Festival, made its U.S. debut Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the first of four performances.

With a libretto by Francois Bretonneau based on the Old Testament story of David and Jonathan, the opera unfolds in five acts and a prologue — which in this staging is shifted to between the third and fourth acts. There are flashbacks to David and Jonathas playing as kids, portrayed by the adorable William Lach and Kivlighan de Montebello. Saul's mother collapses and dies chasing the pair through her kitchen during a game of hide and go seek. Later, she is imagined by Saul to be La Pythonisse (the Witch of Endor). In fact, there are 11 of them in Saul's hallucination.

Paul Zoller's set is basically a wooden box that expands, contracts, divides and retracts; when it fills the width of the stage and the ceiling lowers, it appears CinemaScopic. There are chairs and tables, but little else. In the modern dress by Gideon Davey, the Philistines wear Fezzes and the Israelites loose-fitting clothes in earth tones.

Charpentier's music, filled with moving arias, heated duets and striking choral segments, lacks a musical showpiece, yet the buoyant score is a revelation under Christie, a master of the Baroque repertoire.

He brought the seven primary singers who performed the roles last summer in Aix, and most of them reprised their roles at Paris' Opera Comique in January and the Teatre de Caen in February. Their rehearsal time and chemistry showed. The hugs and kisses between Jonathas and David before battle and Jonathas' death were heartfelt, the anger of Saul seething.

Soprano Ana Quintans, looking a bit Harry Potterish in round glasses, was thrilling in soaring lines of Jonathas. High tenor Pascal Charbonneau, a growth of stubble on his face, was indefatigable as David, his voice sounding as fresh 2 1/2 hours in as it did at the beginning. Basses Neal Davies (Saul) and Frederic Caton (the Philistine King Achis) maintained regal haughtiness without crossing into caricature.

High tenor Dominique Visse was a menacing La Pythonisse, tenor Kresimir Spicer slimy as the Philistine army head Joadab and bass Pierre Bessier brooding as the ghost of the prophet Samuel, summoned by the witch.

The French diction of the entire cast was impeccable. The chorus, led by Francois Bazola, purred like a church choir. Playing on original instruments, Les Arts Florissants gave the work a dramatic ebb and flow.

Homoki, former head of the Komischen Oper Berlin and current intendant of the Zurich Opera, deftly makes a 325-year-old composition seem modern. There are additional performances through Sunday, and a DVD from last summer is scheduled for release by Bel Air Classiques on April 30.

___

Online:

http://www.bam.org/

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 40 minutes ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • Why you can't buy America's greenest car 3 hours ago
    Why you can't buy America's greenest car

    Ask me or any auto expert what's the fastest car you can buy for any given amount, and we could easily cough up several options. Same for most luxurious, or off-roadable, or any other measurement. Yet there's one type of question that's far harder to answer: What's the greenest, most environmentally friendly car you can buy today?

  • Audi TT Offroad concept debuts as a 124-mpg hybrid with wireless charging 4 hours ago
    Audi TT Offroad concept debuts as a 124-mpg hybrid with wireless charging

    The TT. Audi's diminutive sports car. Since production began in 1998, the two-door coupe has aged with the pugnacity of a grizzled New Yorker, but not in size. And why would it, as the arrival of the TT RS proved, adding some grit makes for a rather captivating dish. And so you'll excuse us for being puzzled by the Audi TT Offroad concept.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.