The Maids is based on Genet’s play, itself based on an incident of two sisters killing their employer and her daughter in Le Mans in 1933. Swedish composer Peter Bengtson’s score is harsh and brutal with moments of tenderness and genuine pathos. All praise to Nancy Allen Lundy, who sings the role of the younger sister Claire with astonishing control, mastering the shrieks and whines of this unforgiving role. Allyson McHardy is older sister Solange, the mastermind of the plot to kill Madame. She sings with power and heft and is a compelling actress. Stephanie Novacek is Madame, glamour and glitz personified (When she sings about love, Bernard Hermann fans, take note: there’s a four bar quotation from Vertigo!)
The production utilizes the same set as Emperor, with the gray landscape now the sisters’ interior landscape and the elevated set is now Madame’s elegant bathroom.
The libretto, translated from the Swedish by Bengtson and Muni, is shocking in its violence (albeit no profanity, as if that matters) and clearly bothered many in the audience. It’s not far from the original.
Once again, Patrick Summers gave coherence and cohesion to this difficult score. HGO stalwarts, you have reason to be proud.
These two works are worth hearing and in the extraordinary productions being mounted this weekend, well worth seeing.
- Anne Arenstein, Opera-L
Breathtaking pacing and crafting of suspense The Maids: highly theatrical exploration of power levels