After seeing maybe ten shows and pieces of his, from opera to evening-length works, I remain unconvinced by Mark Morris's genius. The staging of Purcell's King Arthur I saw at City Opera yesterday did not change my mind; When it comes to opera, Morris probably should not be left to his own devices; that is, he should not direct and choreograph. (Big exception: Orfeo, which was pretty great indeed but feels like a fluke.)
Having gotten rid of the plot, Morris staged King Arthur as one kooky tableau after another. His worst tendency—sentimental cuteness—quickly came to the fore and didn't depart for the rest of the evening. While I did enjoy the first-act orgy (who wouldn't?), the show felt pat, pandering, lazy. And still, I applauded just to shush the lone booer. The idea is to encourage experimentation with opera, not deter it. So what if it didn't work? You could close your eyes, block out the silliness on stage and bask in the glorious music. Fine, so it kinda goes against the point of live opera, but you also gotta make the most of what you have.
And the music was beautiful indeed. You may be more familiar with King Arthur than you'd think: Peter Greenaway and his composer Michael Nyman used Purcell, and KA in particular, as the departure point for The Draughtsman's Contract (the cue "Chasing Sheep Is Best Left to Shepherds" is probably the most famous), and back in the early 80s Klaus Nomi had an unlikely European hit with "The Cold Song", from the first act.
Klaus Nomi "The Cold Song"
8 hours ago