This is a 2005 chamber opera based on the 1888 play Miss Julie by August Strindberg. I have never read Strindberg, and I don’t know if I’ve read much naturalist literature or drama, so this was a new experience for me.
The staging and direction are fantastic – they’ve decided to stage the pay in some weird alternate reality where the time isn’t entirely clear – are they in 1888 Sweden or are they somewhere else entirely? – and there are odd things in the kitchen, such as a tire and a giant pipe. The storm in the middle of the opera is handled really well, and all the actors act more physically than just about any other opera I’ve ever seen. That was really cool.
The libretto is a little opaque. Apparently some massive changes were made and it’s hard to know what was cut, but I had no idea how Jean and Julie were connected for much of initial minutes. This actually stops being a problem later in the play, as things unfold slowly (never a bad thing), but for a few minutes I was at sea.
The music is pretty standard serialist/modernist stuff. Given that the score was composed this century, there’s nothing really notable about it that distinguishes it as a major opera, but it’s good and atmospheric, if you like that sort of thing (I mean, the serialist thing).
Though the music didn’t grab me – though it’s the kind of music I like – and though the libretto felt, well, not great – though it may have been translated, and that may have been the problem – the staging was so good, and the performances were so good that I enjoyed it more than I initially thought.
This is the only opera I have ever seen set in one room (a kitchen at that!) and it was a unique and enjoyable experience.