Since his death in 1900, Oscar Wilde’s life and work has been the subject of countless plays, movies, biographies and other books. To this long list, James Melo’s “The Trial of Oscar Wilde", currently performed by the Romantic Century Theater Company at at Symphony Space, can now be added, and it is bound to occupy a unique place in that list. Half drama, half chamber music concert, this version of the well-known story is profoundly beautiful and moving.
And who doesn’t know the story today? Wilde became involved in an intimate relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas and when his father, Lord Queensbury (creator of the Queensbury rules of boxing), found out, a series of confrontations led Wilde to sue the brutal Queensbury for libel. When Wilde lost the case, he was counter sued and lost again, resulting in his imprisonment in Reading Jail for two years.
Melo’s play keeps the narrative to a bare bones minimum. The story is told through a series of brief chronological vignettes, beginning with the meeting of Wilde and Douglas, and concluding with Wilde’s exile to France. Between each of these witty little scenes, the audience is treated to magnificent program of short musical pieces performed by the Amphion Quartet accompanied by pianist Daria Rabotkina. Melo, a musicologist by profession, has very skillfully divided Ernest Chausson's "Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet in D Major" into 12 stand-alone sections and interlarded them between the dramatic scenes. Each of the 12 sections reflects the emotional content of the dramatic scene before or after it. Other selections include compositions by such masters as Satie, Fauré, and Franck, and collectively build up to a very powerful denouement.
Although the role of Oscar Wilde was beautifully played by Michael Halling, the stars of this wonderful piece of performance art were without question Susie Park on solo violin, Daria Rabotkina on piano, and the Amphion Quartet. Their performances were spectacular.