Bolcom: A View from the Bridge

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: New World
WORKS: A View from the Bridge
PERFORMER: Kim Josephson, Catherine Malfitano, Gregory Turay; Chicago Lyric Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies
Arthur Miller himself had a hand in the transmutation of his great stage play into the libretto for William Bolcom’s two-act opera, given its premiere in Chicago two years ago; this recording is taken from that first run of performances. There is a fashion in the USA for using great literature as the basis of operas, as if the quality of the original is in some way a copper-bottomed guarantee of the success of reworking, or at least of ensuring that the stage work will attract a curious audience, and Bolcom’s score is typical of the result, which bends over backwards to be listener-friendly, and squeezes most of the life out of the drama in the process.


Imagine a musical idiom situated somewhere between George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim, but without the rhythmic effervescence of the first, the melodic memorability of the second and the verbal dexterity of the third, and that is what much of A View from the Bridge is like. It sounds desperately arch and contrived, with the natural cadences of the words rarely matching the shape of the musical phrasing, while the orchestra runs through a gamut of pale pastiches and lame, punctuating gestures. The performances are fine, though the characterisations can only be cardboard thin. Andrew Clements