Genre: Drama
As grand opera goes, few examples of the form have the inherent grandeur of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots. The dramatic backdrop is Mérimée's account of the 16th-century St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of thousands of French Calvinists under the Catholic regime. The trick, insofar as there is one, is the way in which the attendant upheaval is reflected in the smallest detail of the lives of the main protagonists. This 1991 Berlin Opera production carries this process several stages further, embedding--and there really is no other word to describe the thoroughness of the process--the narrative into an indeterminate, hyper-condensed 20th-century setting. While this approach has its own pitfalls, such as the silent "pre-overture" that proposes an unsubtle comparison between the oppression of the Catholics and the persecution of the Jews in wartime Germany, it would be churlish to let them detract from what is a robust and highly memorable performance of this sometimes unfashionable opera. --Roger Thomas,

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