The Ghosts Of Versailles
Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

Rude, touching, experimental, hilarious, outrageous and memorable-–THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES is all of those things and more.

L.A. Opera’s epic production of composer John Corigliano’s 1991 opera (with libretto by William M. Hoffman) was presented as part of the company’s “Figaro Unbound” series (The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro will follow). Pierre de Beaumarchais, author of the original plays that inspired Mozart and now Corigliano, is one of the principal characters in GHOSTS. Sung powerfully by Christopher Maltman, he heads a band of royal specters who, after having been beheaded by French revolutionaries, now haunt the palace of Versailles (sumptuous Baroque set by Alexander Dodge). The aristocratic Beaumarchais tries valiantly to dissuade a radical-minded Figaro (the estimable Lucas Meachem) from ordering the beheading of Marie Antoinette (Patricia Racette).

photo: Craig Mathew
That is just one component of Hoffman’s wild, complicated plot which contains not just a ghost story but an opera within an opera. There is also an internecine struggle over a stolen necklace, not to speak of an extended satire of the 18th century’s mania for things oriental (with Patti LuPone doing an outrageous turn as a Turkish bellydancer).

Alternating between comedy and tragedy, opera buffa and heart-rending love story, GHOSTS comes off as daringly brave and original. Corigliano’s music is equally fresh-sounding and different, a mixture of various styles: experimental, neoclassical, atonal, lyrical, brash. One never knows what to expect from the music; it surprises and delights all along the way, helped by James Conlon’s vigorous work in the pit.

photo: Craig Mathew
L.A. Opera has pulled out all the stops with this production, which features an 80-strong cast of singers, dancers, contortionists and clowns, plus the dazzling costumes and lighting effects by Linda Cho and York Kennedy, respectively.

THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES is a major triumph not only for L.A. Opera but its Serbian-born director, Darko Tresnjak, who won a 2014 Tony award for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.

For tickets and information, call 213-972-8001 or visit