If you ever had a down moment, because you felt as though people weren't getting the real you, you likely had a friend who advised you to go out there, and show 'em what you got, and bring the razzmatazz, and maybe have a little laugh at yourself, too.
Art forms have such crises of perception, from time to time, as they weather popular opinion and the tastes of the day. But then a painting or a song or an opera comes along with heaps of razzmatazz in tow, and the form marches forward.
Look to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the LA Opera's February production "The Ghosts of Versailles," which challenges notions of how opera is too often perceived by merrily deconstructing its reputation and how far it can go. (Things start early on the reputation-tweaking front, when a character laments that opera is "boring," a line sure to bring the house down.)
"Boring" gets a kick in the pantaloons in this modern work -- it was commissioned in 1980 by the Metropolitan Opera -- which features a dolorous Marie Antoinette in her ethereal state (hence the "ghosts" in the title).
Also featured? LA Opera's largest cast ever. How many people can the stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion hold? (Answer: Dozens upon dozens, many in elaborate frocks and wigs.)
Figaro is there, too -- "The Ghosts of Versailles" is the first of a Figaro triad the LA Opera is taking on over the next few months, with "The Barber of Seville" and "The Marriage of Figaro" still to come -- and two of the performing world's shining stars, Patricia Racette and Patti LuPone (look for the bringing-down-of-the-house yet again).
The opera is sung in English, with music by John Corigliano and the libretto by William M. Hoffman.
Aerialists, acrobats, and perspective-skewering sets that look as though they might have emerged from an actual palace by way of a Terry Gilliam film lend the opera buffa much of its bounce. But it isn't all comedic: Impassioned revolutionaries, imprisoned aristocrats, and a state of upheaval summon more clouds than clowns.
Even among the bouffanted, britches-rocking spirits of the court of Louis XVI. Swanning about eternity as a well-dressed wraith can't save one from a heavy heart, it seems, but art has a way of putting things right, or righter, in the opera.
It's a lesson well taken by those who would use a wide brush to paint the art form as boring. When it can wink at itself, grandly and garishly, as "The Ghosts of Versaille" can, then the boring-painted brush might need to be stowed.