Shore flounders in "The Fly"

I was thinking that the original reviews of "The Fly" and the comments about his music might just be growing pains. That, once it had spent some time in Paris the music would have settled in and reviewers of the LA production might be glowing about it. But, sadly, this is not the case.

Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times writes, "But despite the inventive staging and all-out efforts of an admirable cast — especially the courageous performance of the Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch as Seth Brundle, the obsessed scientist who morphs into the hideous creature he calls Brundlefly — “The Fly” is a ponderous and enervating opera, and the problem is Mr. Shore’s music."
Ronald Blum
of the Associate Press writes, "The music is accessible, melodic and lush, with pulsating chords and strings that shimmer eerily. But the arias fail to soar, with little differentiation in the music that accompanies them. When Veronica sings her big second-act aria "The dream began," in which she imagines giving birth to Brundle's child, it ends abruptly on a note that doesn't seem to really conclude it. Moments that are dramatic aren't reinforced sufficiently musically. Shore seems more comfortable with orchestral writing than composing for voice."
Robert Evertt-Green of the Globe and Mail writes, "...a muddled concept (put into words by librettist David Henry Hwang) and a balked score by Howard Shore have left this Fly buzzing pointlessly against the pane."

Mark Swed of the LA Times is more supporting writing, "Shore scored that second "Fly" effectively, even operatically. So I am at a loss to understand why "The Fly" has turned out so dreary, despite the inclusion of sex, nudity, puppetry and athleticism.
"The short orchestral prelude begins promisingly enough with swooping repeated figures in the orchestra reminiscent of early Janácek, setting an ominous mood. There is a quick change into something more generically ominous. But after that, for more than two hours, there is little variety, little change.
"The vocal writing is generally flat and conversational. Phrases often repeat; though slightly varied, they are predictable. Sexual passion and insect angst inspire similar music. So too do dorky scientists partying and toughs in a pool hall. Thick textures, thick chords and dark colors (from low strings, brass and timpani) pervade."

Timothy Mangan of the Orange County Register was not near so nice, "Howard Shore's "The Fly," which was given its U.S. premiere Sunday afternoon courtesy of Los Angeles Opera, is the worst opera I've ever seen."

Perhaps it's a shame to be so relentlessly hard on Mr Shore. He is a serious composer with numerous positive works to his credit (3 Oscars with 49 other wins and 36 nominations). Undoutably he will eventually be lauded for his work - but probably not for this one. This is, after all, his first opera. He could have done worse than premiering in Paris on his first go 'round. Like with the movie, Mr Shore left room in the opera for a sequel, but I suspect (after all of the reviews) it won't be Mr Shore (if anyone) who takes up the task.


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