• U.S.


2 minute read
Michael Walsh

THROUGHOUT VLADIMIR NABOKOV’S Lolita the prose chimes with music. How appropriate, then, that Rodion Schedrin, one of Russia’s pre-eminent composers, has seized upon the novel for an opera. Schedrin’s Lolita, which received its world premiere at the Royal Opera in Stockholm last month, runs four hours; unfortunately, the novel has more music on a single page.

Schedrin’s lazy, impotent score is loutish when it is not downright sullen. The finale-in which the degenerate playwright Quilty scrambles around his mansion in a drugged stupor, stopping to pound out a few chords on his piano before Humbert Humbert (Per-Arne Wahlgren) shoots him-is a scene worthy of Shostakovich in his manic, trumpets-and-snare-drums mode, but all Schedrin can muster is forced-march noodlings. As for the vulgar libretto, Schedrin wrote it himself but neglected to secure rights from the Nabokov estate. The copyright problems were eventually sorted out with the stipulation that the opera may not be sung in any major language such as Russian or English (in Stockholm it was sung in Swedish).

Director Ann-Margret Pettersson’s frankly erotic production is terrific. Designer John Conklin’s images of overstuffed divans, lipstick applicators, dromedary-branded cigarettes and filling stations with Pegasus insignias effectively evoke 1950s America. And the uninhibited, vocally exemplary performance of the title role by soprano Lisa Gustafsson, 25, partly redeems the evening. She becomes the much younger, equally alluring sister of such operatic sirens as Carmen, Lulu and Katerina Ismailova. If only, like them, she had something to sing.


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