We see their bond building a bit, and thanks to DiDonato, McKinny and van Hove it’s gripping, with De Rocher’s sympathetic mother and the victims’ irate parents putting some external pressure on the central couple.
But there is no real urgency in the outcome, no sense of deep mutual revelation or cat-and-mouse surprise or crisis of faith, even as the clock ticks and the constraints of captivity — the same elements that make up, say, “The Silence of the World ” gifts. the Lambs” are exciting, perversely romantic efforts.
Instead, there is only a steady, swelling tenderness, for which Heggie’s cloudless lyricism is suited. He has created a sweet hymn that becomes Sister Helen’s leitmotif. For a compelling ensemble that brings her together with Joseph’s mother and the victims’ parents, he turns to clean neo-baroque chords, richly arranged, to balance emotion and clarity. When Heggie’s scene transitions and climaxes tend to blare, he gives voices plenty of room to escape.
DiDonato, the highlight of “The Hours” at the Met last season as a solemnly soft-spoken Virginia Woolf, manages the same magnetic composure here, although Sister Helen’s music – unlike Woolf’s – features her lean, eloquent mezzo-soprano in a thin , tight high register.
Her diction is impeccable, just like McKinny’s – and his warm, robust bass-baritone voice makes De Rocher’s humanity clear from the start. Among a packed and excellent supporting cast, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who played the role of Sister Helen, returns as a beautifully dignified Mrs. De Rocher. (It made it even more touching that Frederica von Stade, who played the mother in 2000, was in the audience Tuesday, as was real-life Sister Helen, now 84.)