The Boston Symphony Orchestra's recent performances of ''Jeanne d'Arc au bucher,'' were short, competent, but unexceptional. This dramatic oratorio - music by Arthur Honegger, French text (on the concerns of Joan nearing death) by Paul Claudel - came together greater than the sum of its constituent parts, which are considerable: BSO (upstage), Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston Boy Choir, and Youth Pro Musica (all downstage) - separated by raised platform. On this narrow stage were displayed the substantial acting talents of principals Marthe Keller, in the nonsinging role of Joan, and Georges Wilson as Frere Dominique.
But what kept the performance from being a standout - say, in the category of last year's equally large-scale ''Damnation of Faust'' - were the four soloists who gave adequate, but overall uninspired, readings.
Honegger's music is part of the problem as well. Superb in wittily alternating idioms from Gregorian chant to folk song - appropriate for Jeanne's trial by a pig-masked judge and the political card game that decides her fate - the slickly orchestrated score falls short when it comes time to translate the spiritual parallels of human hope and deific love. This diametric pull between a music too weak and a story too strong - or vice versa - is the chasm to be bridged in all drama-in-opera. Though Seiji Ozawa's remarkable organizational skills held these performances together in polished unity, the production did not bridge that gap.