A Brainwashed Baritone: review of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ at Minnesota Opera

March 9, 2015 9:53 PM

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A Brainwashed Baritone: review of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ at Minnesota Opera

The 1962 film “The Manchurian Candidate” is a masterpiece of creepiness and suspense; the opera version of the story with music by Kevin Puts and libretto by Mark Campbell, given its world premiere by the Minnesota Opera at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, is not. The piece is snappier than the duo’s previous collaboration, the dutiful “Silent Night,” which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music, but it suffers from some of the same issues. Driven by plot and text, its music doesn’t grip the listener with the kind of powerful characterization and dramatic impulse that make an operatic retelling worth the effort.

Originally a 1959 novel by Richard Condon, “The Manchurian Candidate” is a political thriller. Raymond Shaw, an unpopular American soldier, is kidnapped by Chinese and Russian Communists during the Korean War along with his platoon and brainwashed into a sleeper assassin. Shaw returns to the U.S. la...

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