Jordanne Delahaye, Gleaner Writer
The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series made quite a return to theatres around the world on Saturday with the production of Hector Berlioz's most ambitious work - Les Troyens.
The grand opera in five acts lasted over five hours and is the Met's biggest production yet; even outdoing the Met's last giant production of Aida.
In fact, Les Troyens is so huge and demanding that it is usually performed in parts and only the biggest opera houses can afford to undertake the production and all that it entails. Berlioz himself did not even live to see it performed in its entirety.
Saturday marked the second time the opera was undertaken at the Metropolitan Opera House since it was last performed 10 years ago.
Berlioz not only composed the sensational score but also wrote the libretto himself. This made for an awe-inspiring juxtaposition when the arias and choruses were paired with the music.
The music itself was brilliant and the scenes where there were no vocal performances - just dances and dramatisations, were just as compelling and revealed Francesca Zambello's endeavour to produce both a dramatic masterpiece and an aural one.
The first part of the opera sees a jubilant Troy heady with excitement, celebrating the apparent end of 10 years of siege by the Greeks. All seems to be well and festive until Cassandra reveals her prophetic vision of perils to come.
It is too late when the Trojans realise Cassandra's prophecy was becoming a reality and we are given a gory glimpse at human futility as Cassandra, along with a few surviving women and children, commit mass suicide in a final act of defiance against the Greeks.
The second part takes place in Carthage, where the recently widowed Dido seems to be leading her people to prosperity after they have fled from their homeland, Tyre, following the death of the King, Dido's husband.
Aeneas, a brave Trojan warrior who escaped the invasion with a few other survivors from the Trojan army, ended up in Carthage after being shipwrecked. Aeneas was leading the men to Italy as he was instructed by the ghost of a fallen prince, Hector, where he was supposed to build a new Troy, but he and Dido soon discover their love for each other.
Aeneas is now torn between his duty to his fallen nation and his duty to his heart, as he must either choose to stay with Dido or continue his journey to Italy.
The all-American cast made good work of the French libretto.
It was interesting to see Deborah Voigt and Susan Graham transformed in the roles of Cassandra and Dido respectively, as those watching the live transmissions are familiar with them as hosts during the intermissions.
Both females were magnificent in their roles but it was tenor, Bryan Hymel, who only recently made his Met debut, who really stole the night.
Hymel was riveting in the role of Aeneas and his performance of Inutile Regrets in the final act was spellbinding.
This week's host, Joyce DiDonato, will take on the title role in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda on January 19. Maria Stuarda is an opera in two acts, portraying a supposed conflict between Mary, Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, and should prove an interesting performance.