This Past Week, 1: Monodramas

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Now that there’s a way to link this blog to my facebook page, I’ll probably start writing more. Sometimes the 420 character limit in the fb update is just too few to get any detail (ya’ think?).

It’s been an awesome week for performance here in NYC. Two days ago I went to City Opera to see MONODRAMAS (http://www.nycopera.com/calendar/view.aspx?id=12524). Three exceptional “solo” pieces presented in one well-constructed evening. First was John Zorn’s La Machine de l’être, based on Antonin Artaud’s final work which was simply a drawing of an imagined production. No text, no direction, some color, rich images. I think Zorn did an excellent job of interpreting this drawing. As with all three pieces, the orchestration was excellent and the orchestra performed beautifully. I found John’s music surprisingly conservative, almost sounding like the music that drove me to (what’s now called) minimalism in the mid ’70s. But of course, it’s Zorn, so there were humorous and unexpected twists and turns throughout the relatively short piece.

Then came Arnold Schoenberg’s Erwartung, one of his first atonal, but pre-serial, works. The music was rich with emotions and the orchestral writing was downright sensual. Perhaps it was because to the performance, but I never realized what an amazing orchestrator Arnie was. The final multi-flute trill, the last sound of the piece, was pure heaven. But this piece also showed what, for me, was the one fault of the evening: the staging could be quite overbearing. The power of this particular piece lies in the fact that it’s a solo. I get that all those other women on stage were supposed to be multiples of the protagonist, but they were simply unnecessary. And while I did enjoyed watching the flying hat land, that enjoyment was actually more of a distraction from the music than anything else. Still, the composition and the music performances were so strong, they stood up to these diversions.

Ahh, Morton Feldman’s and Samuel Beckett’s Neither. Pardon my choice of words here, but it was fucking amazing. Incredible work. Incredible performance. (Mostly) incredible staging. Perhaps it was because of where I was sitting (middle front of the top balcony) but it was the first time I ever experienced a successful attempt at faux-holography, even more successful than some of the actual holography I’ve seen. The upstage groups of people actually looked like they were suspended in mid-air, far above the stage. Then to have the lights of the conductor’s music-stand along with his arm movements reflected off the back wall added an amazing and appropriate contrast. As always, Feldman’s ear for orchestration never ceases to amaze, while his vocal writing was a revelation.

If you are reading this before April 8, 2011 and are in NYC, GO SEE THIS!

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