Saw the opening night of Portland Opera's Galileo Galilei yesterday. At 90 minutes, it was more thought exercise than cathartic. Performers were fine, artistic design was really interesting (especially the seraphim costume for the opera-in-an-opera Eos - could have admired that for half an hour) but ephiphanies and the sublime never arrived.
The story felt based on about 1-2 paragraph biography of Galileo. Not much effort went into showing personality. A film I saw in high school did a better job of explaining the concepts of Galileo's accomplishments and the sense of the person himself.
90 minutes without intermission. That was a good choice. Had it been longer, the opera might not hold onto people's attention. That is the fault of the music and the words.
The music was not memorable. It was a 90 minute libretto. The plot and concepts all felt like blocks getting passed around. I did not feel within any of the characters. I mostly waited for the next visual (and there were many interesting ones).
Galileo's life is presented in 10 chapters, in reverse chronology. To start he is feeble and expressing self-doubt about not having stuck to his earth-is-not-the-center-of-the-universe Copernican proof, or not being devout enough to the Catholic Church in renouncing science completely in his heart. Then we see him with gradually increasing vigor, the role handed off to a better vocalist (or maybe the music improved with more narrative once it moved from tiresome "the earth moves!" "no, the sun moves!" lyrics between Galileo and clerics). The final chapter is a boy Galileo taking in the spectacle of a really interesting opera about Orion. Then at the end the old Galileo is united with the boy Galileo rapt with wonder and they walk into a great brightness together.
But it's the CONCEPT of old Galileo and the CONCEPT of boy Galileo walking together. I never thought: "Oh, how nice for Galileo to get this closure". They were blocks at the end nudged into a bright white screen.
I proclaim from the second balcony "Je suis arriviste!" about opera matters. Portland Opera did an interesting job given the material, but the material was meh.