Lincoln Center’s venerable Mostly Mozart Festival has reduced its concert offerings and added some adventurous theater and dance projects, such as this performance of Haydn’s magnificent 1798 oratorio, The Creation, a multimedia staging by Carlus Padrissa of the Barcelona-based La Fura dels Baus, which has already toured much of Europe and reaches North America for the first time.
Typically for La Fura dels Baus, it links music, technology and poetry for a multifaceted experience. This is not a Creation for purists. The production, which touches on a sweeping range of topics – Old Testament theology, physics, DNA research, philosophy, refugee camps… – is so visually overpowering that the music is often lost among the never-ending barrage of machinery, acrobats, projections, super-sized balloons and various other effects.
All of this theatricality demands much of the vocal soloists, who deserve as much praise for their fearlessness as for their wonderful singing. At many times they were required to sing while suspended by cables from a thirty-foot crane or submerged up to their necks in a thousand-liter aquarium. Yet their performances were extraordinary. Robin Tritschler’s clarion tenor lent authority to his portrayal of Uriel. And as Gabriel, and later Eve, Christina Landshamer’s gorgeous soprano was perfectly suited to Haydn’s enchanting arias. Thomas Tatzl was a magisterial Raphael and, in the final part, an especially forceful Adam. His duets with Landshamer were particularly enchanting, the gorgeous melodies sung with rare sensitivity.
The period-instrument Insula Orchestra and Equilbey, together with choir and soloists, delivered what was by any measure an excellent account of the score. Equilbey drew especially agile and natural playing, and the great final chorus of praise, a stirring fugue, could not have been more thrillingly sung. But…! Audience members wanting to focus on the music will most certainly need to keep their eyes closed during much of this production. That is not to say that it’s bad theater, but just a warning that this Creation is not so much a concert as a maximalist extravaganza – albeit one with outstanding musicianship.