Philip Glass

La Belle et la Bête

The Oakland Opera Theater's production of Philip Glass' La Belle et la Bête was fully-staged instead of using Jean Cocteau film. Tom Dean & Garrett Lowe's set took inspiration from the film, but the staging also had a bit of a circus influence. There was stilt walking and contorting, which may have been my favorite part.

The staging had a few flaws that were inexplicable unless one has seen the film. The part of the white horse, Magnifique, is cut, and Belle goes through a mirror instead. But then how do Avenant and Ludovic find their way to the domain of the Bête? Also, the parts of the Bête and Avenant are played by different people, so the dialogue at the end makes very little sense.

Oakland Opera Theater performances always have a rumpled feel, of being not particularly polished, but honest, at least. The singers seemed to do well in their parts, but in a theater that only held 70 people, one didn't need to project much. Also, the orchestra was behind and above the stage, so one could always hear the singers just fine. I do find it terribly strange that in their two casts, one Belle is a soprano (Marguerite Krull), the other a mezzo (Jennifer Boesing).

Glass' music is rather repetitive and very suitable as a film score. As an opera, it doesn't quite cohere, one feels that the musical line never develops.


Oakland Opera Theater is just finishing a run of performances of Philip Glass' Akhnaten at the Oakland Metro. This was the West Coast premiere of this work which dates from 1984. Director Ellen Sebastian Chang did not have much to work with, yet she was able to pull it off somehow, setting the opera both in the contemporary and ancient. The singing was pretty good overall, but the music itself sounded like something fit for a movie score.

Akhnaten - Paul Flight, countertenor
Nefertiti - Katherine Growdon, mezzo-soprano
Queen Tye - Angela Dean-Baham, soprano
Horemhab - Martin Bell, baritone
Aye - John Minagro, bass
Amon - Alan Cochran, tenor
Amenhotep - Michael Mohammed, baritone