Offenbach · La belle Hélène
Santa Fe Opera
- LA BELLE HÉLÈNE DIZZILY, DELIGHTFULLY MAD
Susan Graham in the title role had everything: lustrous looks, easy movement and a command of humour. Then there was her superb singing in which her sultry mezzo tasted the sung French and spoken English dialogue like ripe fruit. It helped, of course, that she and the rest of the cast had Kenneth Montgomery as conductor. Light-hearted in manner and beat, Montgomery adroitly guided pit and stage.
Craig Smith, The New Mexican, 19-07-04
- SFO's Helene tilts to comedy
For its season opener Friday night the Santa Fe Opera let its hair down to deliver what Broadway would call a hit show. Its sparkling version of Offenbach's "La belle Helene" set off tidal waves of laughter. Fronted by the stunning 6-foot-tall Susan Graham as Helen and the Paris of William Burden, who has the looks of a Holywood hunk, the finely integrated SFO production trips along on the lightest and most inventive of steps.
The music was delivered with verve by conductor Kenneth Montgomery.
Joanne Sheehy Hoover, The Albuquerque Journal
- WICKED FUN
'Wicked' doesn't begin to describe last weekend's opening of the Santa Fe Opera's 47th season. Susan Graham made a Héléne that could have launched a billion ships: vocally impeccable, visually delctable. Cast as Paris, buff William Burden looks great and sounds good. Mr. Pelly's outlandish staging and costumes and the sets of Chantal Thomas cast the action in the form of Héléne's dream, so don't be suprised when eight balletic sheep wander onstage in the middle of her and Paris bewitching second act love duet. Chalk up winning moments for Laura Scozzi and her dancers. Plus the SFO chorus, especially when in bathing costume, has never looked so good, and old-timer Kenneth Montgomery conducts the smallish orchestra and big cast with his customary deft authority.
John Stege, The Santa Fe Reporter
- ALL THE PIECES FIT TOGETHER IN OPERA OPENER
The director took excitingly bold risks in this highly innovative staging that paid off both in artistic terms and audience appeal.
Not only were all the performers in the principal roles fabulous singers, they all completely looked their parts, especially the fetching Susan Graham as Helene.
Even though a strong emphasis is placed on theatricality, the staging is never allowed to overshadow Offenbach's inspired, enduring music, for which conductor Kenneth Montgomery has an obvious knack.
Musically ... there was plenty to enjoy, Offenbach's score sparkled under Montgomery's deft baton ...
Hugh Canning, Opera, November 2003
Kenneth Montgomery conducted with spirit.
George Loomis, Financial Times
Kenneth Montgomery conducts with unforced vigor, and the orchestra plays well - except, of course, when it's parodying a drunken town band.
Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
It is an enjoyable romp, slickly staged with Broadway-level dancing, especially the episode for eight sheep which won all hearts in spite of diverting attention from the music of one of the best duets.
Kenneth Montgomery conducted with zest and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Me too, up to a point.
Michael Kennedy, London Sunday Telegraph
- Achilles in Polka-Dot PJs
Updated English dialogue meshed splendidly with frothy, infectious tunes, sung in French and conducted with style by Kenneth Montgomery. Ms Graham and Mr Burden looked stunning, sounded even better, and connected with a chemistry as sexy as it was funny.
Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal