Kevin Puts: The Hours

Renée Fleming, Kelli O’Hara, Joyce DiDonato, Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

CD1

  1. Act I, Prologue—Flowers Flowers II. Grandioso
  2. Act I, Scene 1, Platters!—What’s That, Babe?
  3. Act I, Scene 2, She Pauses At Its Threshold…
  4. Act I, Scene 3, Go Slowly. Ignore Your Novel.
  5. Act I, Scene 3, There's The Scowl.
  6. Act I, Scene 4, Clarissa!—Barbara!
  7. Act I, Scene 5, Richmond… She Opens The Curtains
  8. Act I, Scene 6, Missus Dalloway Said She Would Buy The Flowers Herself.
  9. Act I, Scene 7, Oh Dan. Roses? On Yyour Birthday?
  10. Act I, Scene 8, You Know What We’re Going To Do?
  11. Act I, Scene 9, Here On This Corner.
  12. Act I, Scene 10, Good Morning, My Love!
  13. Act I, Scene 11, We Need Four Cups.
  14. Act I, Scene 12, Oh! A Reminder, Ma’am, Your Sister's Coming Aat Two.
  15. Act I, Scene 13, ...’Cause I’m Going To Die.

CD 2

  1. Act II, Scene 1, Heaven? Somebody Else’s Heaven?
  2. Act II, Scene 2, Did It Matter Then She Asked Herself
  3. Act II, Scene 3, It's Happened.—i Thought I’d Be Overjoyed, Richard!
  4. Act II, Scene 3, Louis?—clarissa. Caught Me Smoking.
  5. Act II, Scene 4, Ent(Ha)da Oikeîs En Te Ge
  6. Act II, Scene 5, Richard! Get Down From There.
  7. Act II, Scene 6, For Alone You Are Holy…
  8. Act II, Scene 7, Mm...’stead Of Jousting You’d Rather…
  9. Act II, Scene 7, Happy My Birthday!
  10. Act II, Scene 7, This Is My Partner, Sally.
  11. Act II, Scene 8, All Along?

 

Contemporary repertoire that appeals to a broad public is now a mainstay for New York’s Metropolitan Opera. May 2024 brings the return to Lincoln Center of Kevin Puts’s The Hours, an opera premiered to great acclaim in late 2022, when this recording was made. Interweaving characters and events from three different periods of the 20th century, its dramatic conception is sophisticated,  but, as Opera magazine concluded: “It worked beautifully …, its disparate elements fusing into a dreamlike, stream-of-consciousness flow that echoes and enhances the original inspiration, Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway.”

For the 2024 staging three star singers return to the roles they took at the world premiere: Joyce DiDonato as Virginia Woolf herself, working on a book in 1923; Kelli O’Hara (whose career straddles opera and Broadway) as homemaker Laura Brown, a character from 1949, and as Clarissa Vaughan, a 1990s literary editor, Renée Fleming.

The Philadelphia Inquirer described Kevin Puts’s score as “immediately lovable, with a lush orchestration that hits you in the solar plexus,” while The New York Times noted the “cinematic quality in its plush, propulsive underscoring … the emotions sincere and persuasive, the music fervent,” summing it up as “eclectic and soaringly lyrical,” containing “dreamy touches befitting the fluid nature of Greg Pierce’s text, which has nearly 30 scenes that dissolve in and out of one another.”

It was Renée Fleming who originally encouraged Kevin Puts (winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his first opera, Silent Night) to base an opera on Michael Cunningham’s 1998 novel The Hours and on the award-winning film that director Stephen Daldry drew from the book; released in 2002, it starred Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep.

Joyce DiDonato believes that “an opera should be written only when it needs to be sung – the emotion is so big that speaking is just not enough – and that’s exactly what we have in The Hours. Even though it deals with death head-on, the piece is actually life-affirming and tells a timeless story. The characters’ struggles are shared universally, and by highlighting them through the different personalities and periods, hopefully everybody can find a part of themselves in the story.”

While the three central characters are separated by time and place, they are connected, as Kelli O’Hara says, “by life’s struggles, joys and regrets, and always by wondering if we’ve done the most we can with the time we have.” Each of the three women inhabits a distinct musical soundworld which is juxtaposed with the others in the course of the opera.  Ultimately their voices – two sopranos and a mezzo-soprano – converge in an ensemble that has prompted comparisons with the trio that crowns Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.

“O’Hara took the highest lines, with Fleming’s lyric soprano and DiDonato’s mezzo all superb and blending beautifully in the final trio,” wrote Opera magazine. “The supporting cast was top of the line, too. Kyle Ketelsen, a bass-baritone, was particularly affecting as the AIDS-stricken Richard, but Denyce Graves as Clarissa’s restless lover, along with Sean Panikkar, Kathleen Kim, Eve Gigliotti, Sylvia D’Eramo and William Burden, all deserve mention.”

Kevin Puts: The Hours • Kevin Puts: The Hours • Kevin Puts: The Hours • Kevin Puts: The Hours •

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