(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Terrence McNally's love of opera has yielded such notable plays as The Lisbon Traviata and Master Class, so there was reason for high hopes for his Bellini biodrama now in previews at Manhattan Theatre Club. All the action takes place backstage during the premiere of I Puritani in 1835 Paris. Were I an avid opera buff, the operatic shoptalk, musical and romantic rivalries and musical in-jokes might have been more involving. That not being the case, the proceedings quickly grew tiresome. When, at the 2 hour 15 minute mark, a character says "I thought it would never end," he expressed my thoughts perfectly. Unfortunately another 30 minutes remained. The cast features Lee Pace as Bellini, Bebe Neuwirth as Maria Malibran, his ex-flame and muse, and Will Rogers as Francesco Florimo, his patron, companion and, possibly, lover. The four leading singers, Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini, Antonio Tamburini and Luigi Lablanche, are played by Dierdre Friel, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Lorenzo Pisoni and Ethan Philips, respectively. F. Murray Abraham has a brief but memorable appearance as Rossini. The set by Santo Loquasto and costumes by Jane Greenwood are excellent. Walter Bobbie's direction does not disguise the flatness of the material. It's a disappointment.