You know that New York’s Met has made it into the 21st century when it starts putting on operas with cyber-thriller plots. Manhattan-based Nico Muhly (The Reader, Kill Your Darlings) has all the audacity you’d expect from a composer in his thirties, and to call this recent production daring would be a glaring understatement.
The opera, with libretto by Craig Lucas, is based on true events: a teenage boy is stabbed in the heart and lies comatose in a hospital bed. An older boy is the main suspect. Detective Anne Strawson must discover how an online friendship could wind up in attempted murder. The investigation leads to a mysterious and sordid world of online chat rooms.
Muhly’s music has a modern edge and his orchestration glows like the virtual colour-world of cyberspace. The score is full of fascinating textures, including a disturbing polyphony of chat room addicts: mums and miscreants chanting in fragmented cyberspeak. It underscores the drama well and is highly engaging, though there’s the unmistakable suggestion of John Adams’ operatic style and language at play.
The leads are strong. In particular, Paul Appleby’s sensitive turn as the confused and tormented older boy, Brian, as well as Alice Coote’s troubled detective. The Met Opera Orchestra and Chorus are also in fine form, under the confident direction current Sydney Symphony chief David Robertson.