15 Dec Nico Muhly: Two Boys CD review – The Guardian
Nico Muhly’s first opera left a less than overwhelming impression when it was given its premiere by English National Opera in 2011. By the time of the US premiere two years later, Muhly had revised the score, and it is those performances at the New York Metropolitan Opera (which had co-commissioned the piece with ENO) that form the basis of this recording. But problems remain, and most of them can be traced to back to Craig Lucas’s libretto, which depicts the internet world of teenage chatrooms – where the distinction between reality and fantasy constantly blurs – in hardbitten, everyday dialogue that sounds impossibly arch when sung. On disc, the balance between the voices and Muhly’s busy, inventive and often striking orchestral and choral writing is better that it was in the theatre, but hearing more of the words is a mixed blessing in the circumstances, and none of the characters is much more than a cipher in the complex, multilayered plot. Alice Coote is the British detective Anne Strawson, trying to discover why 16-year-old Brian (Paul Appleby) stabbed his best friend, but it’s hard to care about any of them.