John Corigliano and William Hoffman’s opera “The Ghosts of Versailles” comes in three sizes. According to Corigliano’s website, there’s the original Metropolitan Opera version from the 1991 debut, which boasted about 300 performers. There’s the standard version (“eliminates the onstage orchestra by incorporating those parts into the regular pit orchestra, re-assigns roles played by comprimario singers to choristers, and requires only 10 principals”) that premiered at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1995. Most recently is the reduced version (orchestrations prepared by John David Earnest) that debuted at the Opera Theater of St. Louis in 2009.
It’s the latter, the trim and easy-to-use edition, that makes its New York City debut this week at the Manhattan School of Music in three performances (4/25-29). Steven Osgood conducts and stage direction is by Jay Lesenger.
There’s tons of places online to learn more about the origins and reception of “Ghosts.” Something I didn’t find readily was the tidbit that the original title was “A Figaro for Antonia.” John and Bill did innumerable talks around Manhattan in the months leading up to the premiere and I recall one of them saying that whenever they said that the name of the opera, the response was “What?!”
So they came up with a new and much better title, while the opera within the opera bears that vowel-heavy original name. And the rest is opera history.