Sunday, December 04, 2005

Temporary lack of tragedy

Ach, the rest of the world is blogging up American Tragedy, but I don't go 'til Monday.

Tonight though I went to Miller Theater's Composer Portraits series, in this instance John Adams. There was very little singing, and what singing there was could hardly be damned with the label "opera," so I'm of two minds whether to write about it here. Suffice it to say--no, don't suffice it just yet. Let me first do the full disclosure routine and mention that I'm pals with someone involved. But you know what, I think this opinion is just shy of universal, so I'm going to assume it's not loyalty speaking when I say what a ruthlessly precise killing machine they are. Somewhere on the way to being a weirdly worded compliment, that took a left turn, but you get it.

The opera-but-not-opera portion of the evening was the apparently rather uncategorizable work "I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky." It's...really not that satisfying. I think it suffers from fish nor fowl syndrome, maybe.* If you like broadway, it's going to strike you as stuffy and not so very tuneful. If you like opera (everybody now: and I know you do!!) or downtown art music, whatever the hell that is, the broadway vocal mannerisms involved may drive you up a tree. It's like what would happen if somebody had the newsreal-as-opera idea that brought us Nixon in China without the genius-level clarity of vision that makes it more or less the only opera from the last 25 years anyone gives a fuck about.

Still it was easy enough to dig into the virtuosity of absolutely everything else. I'm continually blown away by their protean violinist, Courtney Orlando, who in this concert played keyboards and sang a small role in Ceiling/Sky with more vocal assurance than the soloist (which is not really fair of me because she only had a few lines) all as a warmup to the murderous violin part in the Chamber Symphony. There were bowstrings everywhere, I'm telling you. My friend in the ensemble and I joke that my vestigial four heterosexual brain cells have quite the crush on her. If so, last night's no-sweat-broken performance didn't help any, nor did that devastating pair of boots. Oh there. I'm a big fag again.

Many of the rest of them evince a similar sense of being able to do anything, backwards, in heels. There's a certain sadness to watching musicians like this because you can't [I can't] pretend that even if I'd started early and worked hard, I could ever do what they do.

Other works featured were the quirky, intermittently grating Scratchband , a piano transcription of Short Ride in a Fast Machine matched only by last concert's Ligeti etude for sheer shock value (Mr. Adams, after intermission, jokingly compared this to the Horowitz transcription of Stars and Stripes) and Gnarly Buttons, a vivid pastiche requiring the clarinettist, here one dauntless Elisabeth Stimpert, to borrow the pair of bellows Caballe wears on her back.

Ok. It's official. I'm quite unable to write about anything but singing. Well it was a fine concert, and I gave it a shot.

*I'll have the veal.

3 comments:

mezzogregory. said...

FIrst of all, I didn't write about the birth of Callas because I didn't want Our Mother coming down on me.

Second of all, I love that you're the only opera blogger besides me who isn't afraid to say fuck.

Fuck fuckety fuck fuck fuck.

Love you. Mean it.

straussmonster said...

Somewhere, there is a recording of a version of Short Ride in a Fast Machine for gamelan. I don't remember whether Javanese or Balinese. I WANT.

Maury D'annato said...

MezzoG: god in his wisdom created the f word. Who am I to neglect his handywork?

Monsterchen: Oh god, I think I want that too.