The Glass Men Agerie



Last season the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s high-profile Next Wave Festival presented a new opera called Orphée, in which the screenplay (if Jean Cocteau’s surrealist classic was set to the music of Philip Glass. Well, why not? The history of opera is rife with borrowed, retooled, and recycled libretti, and besides, the music did have some merit. Next season BAM promises Les Enfants Terribles, a dance drama based on another Cocteau classic, again with a new score by Glass. Well, why not? The history of dance is full of material appropriated from literature and drama, and besides, maybe Glass’s as yet undetermined choreographic collaborator will come up with something worth watching. Meanwhile, here is La Belle et la Bête, based on the immortal Cocteau fantasy, in which a quartet of singers and an ensemble of instrumentalists perform Glass’s live, poorly synchronized new musical setting of the screenplay while the film is shown with supertitles but without its own soundtrack. Well, why not? I’ll tell you why not. Because it is an outrage. The actors have voices of their own. The timbres and inflections of Josette Day as the airy, sophisticated Beauty and Jean Marais (Cocteau’s love and inspiration) as regular guy, prince, and bloodthirsty Beast with smoking claws weave as deeply into Cocteau’s spell as their glamourous movement and appearance. How dare Glass steal their faces and then cut out their tongues? That, at all events, is the opinion in this corner after an invitational dress rehearsal last spring. Audiences in Europe, where the show has been touring ever since, have nevertheless been cheering Glass’s La Belle et la Bête to the skies. Who’s right? As always, you must judge for yourself. (December 7 and 9-11, Brooklyn Academy of Music; call 718-636-4100.)