Photo by KEN HOWARD / Metropolitan Opera
At last it felt like the start of a year ending in a 3: Les Troyens has been at the Met every year ending in "3" since 1973. This season marked the first Live-in-HD "3."
As with any ten-year homecoming there was much to measure. Deborah Voigt was cast once again as Cassandre. She looked great and was often convincing in the role. But the color of her voice remained discordant with the intentions of the part, which was scored for mezzo-soprano. Granted that Berlioz wrote for voices in ways that are very individualized, and that the writing for Cassandre lies high in the mezzo range. But he was always very particular about the choice of instruments; even if he chose to explore unique shades of the instrument.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was tenor Bryan Hymel who was a simply awesome Aeneas; an unexpected delight, and a perfect vocal match for the part. He replaced Marcello Giordani who "retired the role" from his repertoire midway through this run. Hymel was an upgrade. He was confident, young, vocally strong, and remained engaging throughout the performance.
One of the best indicators of the strange match between his voice and this role was in Énée’s Narration from the first act where Aeneas described the ingestion of the priest Laocoön by a sea serpent, after warning the Trojans to get rid of that damn wooden horse. Alas.
Hymel was able to carry the gradual register shift in this narration in a single carefully unfolding line, and reached the very highest part of his voice without the presence of any obvious registeral breaks. His chemistry with Susan Graham also made for good opera.
Graham embodied Dido. She could hear the influences of Gluck in this role; yet was also able to wring the mystical, futuristic side of the part with equal enchantment. She was completely believable.
"Peace and enchantment surround us," sang seven principle characters in a choral interlude just before the end of the fourth act. In the opera, peace was an island between the foreboding of Cassandre and the heartbreak of Dido. Francesca Zambello's 2003 production allowed us to savor this peaceful moment, and the HD cameras brought it to us with intimate and tender expression.