It's big, bold and visually ravishing, but in terms of content this musical is one for the so-bad-it's-good brigade!
Rick Fisher's lighting design, based on the tricouleur, is beautiful; Michael Yeargan's set includes a vast platform which tilts up to represent the Austrian Alps and leaves a kind of dungeon beneath into which Bonaparte throws his brother Lucien. Screens and back projections do almost all the work of location, and indeed apart from the big set-piece scenes, opera director Francesca Zambello stages many of the numbers as two-dimensional arias.
The story – that Napoleon's success was inspired by his love for Joséphine, and his downfall lay in over-compensation for his abandonment of her – labours its parallels, so that the climax interweaves Waterloo with a eulogy to the recently deceased Joséphine. But Timothy Williams' music ends far too many lines on diffident upward cadences, and Andrew Sabiston's lyrics are often just plain ludicrous – rhyming "brilliantly planned" with "Talleyrand", for instance. It's not quite high camp, but it has many more laughs than intended.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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