Languishing in a Paris prison during the final months of her life, Mata Hari relives her tempestuous relationships with the men who loved, loathed, and ultimately destroyed her. The piece pushes the boundaries of the operatic form with its electro-acoustic instrumentation, mixed vocal styles, manipulated video design, and melding of historical materials.
"There are challenges in presenting historical material, and Mr. Marks and Mr. Peers have made some fascinating choices in their non-linear telling of the story of Mata Hari...Four talented musicians conducted with precision by David Bloom played Mr. Marks’ adventurous and eclectic score with passionate perfection, conjuring an era of decadence and dominance...The opera 'Mata Hari' is a welcome addition to our continued obsession with this iconic historical figure." Full Review
"Their tone is bracingly unsentimental, as is clear from the first swear words uttered by the chain-smoking nun...Mr. Peers’s smart libretto adopts a process that peels away his title character’s contradictions, unreliable memories, half-lies and compromising admissions in a way that subtly notches up the pathos. To a certain degree, the score succeeds in reflecting those tensions. Mr. Marks’s most striking innovation is a bold mix of vocal styles." Full Review
"A compelling, though somewhat messy, work…Marks' smart score covers a variety of styles, with engaging forays into rock and standard opera, thoughtfully allowing a difference in the way the characters are treated. I'm sure that Marks and Peers had their reasons for leaving the title character without any music, but I thought it was a missed opportunity, despite the dramatic effectiveness of Tina Mitchell in the title role…A pretty gripping 90 minutes." Full Review
"While ‘Mata Hari's’ story and Marks' music are individually thrilling, their merger onstage often comes across as a confusing jumble…Peers stages the show with great efficiency and thrift…Despite all this wizardry, we still walk away feeling a bit bored. We're confused by the story, but not in a way that makes us want to solve the mystery behind it...'Mata Hari' has a lot of individually great aspects, but it is undermined by its giant ambition to be all things in less than 90 minutes." Full Review
"The non-singing ‘Mata Hari’ is part of the composer’s eclectic approach, combining traditional arias both forceful and tender by classically trained singers with contemporary melodies, with a repertoire of avant-garde sounds from punk-rock to modern dissonance...I wish I could say all of this struck me as refreshingly innovative, but it would be easier to feel that way if Mata Hari hadn’t already been the subject of everything from Garbo’s 1931 film to Coelho’s 2016 novel." Full Review
"It’s a complicated story, and first-time librettist Peers, who also directed, tried to jam too much information into 90 minutes. It was hard to follow if you didn’t know the story...Some of the scenes were overly long, and tension was most often expressed with extreme volume, which was oppressive in the small space, and sometimes drowned out crucial text...Peers’s flowing direction created an intriguing dreamscape, but couldn’t disguise the dramatic hiccups of the piece." Full Review
"To its credit, Paul Peers’ libretto avoids clichés, but it unfolds confusingly and often tediously in flashbacks taking the form of duos between Mata Hari and various men in her life that lack cumulative force…Marks’ music, rendered by a four-person instrumental ensemble, relies on melodic male humming and a frenzied violin for the climactic dance; earlier, other dances, such as the waltz, were heard in versions that oddly lacked charm…Overall Marks’ music has little sense of development." Full Review
See it if you want to see something new/fresh, in between classical musical theater and opera; to hear accordion; or to know more about Mata Hari.
Don't see it if You don't care for choral/operatic singing or high-register trills is low; biographical pieces; or contemporary orchestration.
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