It’s great that Lyric Opera wanted to note the Tippett centennial with the Chicago premiere of his “The Midsummer Marriage, ” a work already 50 years old itself. The backstage drama of putting this complex work together saw major casualties along the way, including the withdrawal of tenor Hugh Smith—replaced by Lyric Opera Center for American Artists singer Joseph Kaiser—and director Sir Peter Hall, replaced by the work’s choreographer, Wayne McGregor. It is difficult to assess whether or not these exits were more cause or effect when the curtain rose last week on a production that appears to be running rather rudderless. My own suspicion is that Hall’s conception of the work, which sets aside Tippett’s premise that the colorful trials and rituals that a young couple endures on its Midsummer wedding day are ambiguous—“Was it a dream, or was it real?” the composer’s own libretto states—is the real culprit, and Hall sets the entire proceedings as a dream with a distracting doppelganger in pajamas with his large bed on stage all evening. Where Tippett calls for a Greek temple, Hall gives us a teepee; where Tippett calls for abstract dance, McGregor gives us a guy in boxer shorts wearing a fish head being chased by half-naked unisex weeds in lettuce bathing caps. The cast, chorus and orchestra by and large sound tentative and unconvinced, and as a result, so are we. (Dennis Polkow)
This production is now closed.