Monday, October 13, 2008

Physician, heal thyself

Oh, the shame. The awful, crushing shame. You go around saying how great it is that the Met is finally showing a little sense of adventure in their programming, hoping it makes you the sort of person who doesn't say "My kindergartner could do that" at exhibitions of abstract art (god forbid I should ever have one...of either) and where's it get you? On the train to Inwood. At 10 pm, sneaking out so Nico Muhly won't see you. Heh. Nico Muhly doesn't know who I am, so it's fine if he did see me. He was just put into that sentence to represent the people whose love of New Music is made up less of good intentions than mine, which is inapt since he actually writes it. But he was by the Millo pole at intermission so hey, welcome to my review.

The worst of it is that to leave after intermission is to leave after the one glimmer of hope, the Donne sonnet setting for the baritone, which someone just tried unsuccessfully to send me. I'd like to listen again and see if it's as great as I thought it was; all I know for sure is it snapped me awake after 75 minutes of pinching myself REALLY HARD because I snore, and that's just not ok. The wondrousness of this aria, however, is a bit of a problem in that the rest of the act is extraordinarily talky and just...not very likable.

Oh hey here's "Batter my heart" on youtube. Funnily enough, on my way home (by which I mean 15 blocks or so out of the way, but I needed a pick-me-up) I went to Coldstone Creamery for cake batter ice cream. Batter! Anyway.

Riveting, right?

Caveats: 1) I was tired anyway and 2) this was not the kind of flight reaction that greeted The Wurst Emperor. I just couldn't get into the idea of 1.5 hours more of what I'd just heard, even if Gerald Finley was something of a revelation. It's just...I think the problem is the libretto, to some extent, and then where that leaves off, the music. I obviously don't know John Adams, nor have I spent any time in his brain (though I read his New Yorker thing) so I have no idea what his motivations are at any given moment, but one might imagine that in composing this, there was some deliberate sidestepping of the minimalist label, yesno?

Listen, I'll go back and get one of them $30 orchestra seats, and I'll listen to Act II. I've mostly heard it's, well, interminable, but just now through the magic of the intertubes, I'm being told some of the staging is miraculous. In fact, the staging of Act I was very much what you'd want; inventive, thoughtful, poetic. So even just for that, I'll go back. For now, though, here is a lesson about why composers should not maybe always talk about their own work, this being the final sentence of Adams' essay in the program:

"As the tape recorded voice of a Japanese woman repeatedly asking for a glass of water plays in the distance, the audience gradually realizes that they themselves are the goddamn bomb." (Profanity mine, for emphasis.)

ETA: Ok, here's another clip that serves as evidence that there was other good music in the act and suggests to me perhaps I just wasn't wild about Sasha Cooke's reading, though folks of estimable taste are wild about her so...what to do. I stand by my narcoleptic reaction to the first scene, and the weird conversation about carbs in the third. But again, here's a good part--


Anonymous said...

The first act and its closing aria are definitely the high points. The second act seemed endless and there's a terrible moment when a siren goes off and it is noted that this is the "five minute warning" - then the god-damned thing goes on for another 10 or 15 minutes. A cruel trick to play on a tired audience!

Unknown said...

The worst part of the San Fran premiere, Staging and Libretto Problems notwithstanding, was knowing that "Am I in your light" was written for Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who was ill that season, and whom I'd only ever seen on video. (I thought her replacement, Kristine Jepson, did a wonderful job.) "I hope it's nothing serious," I thought. "Maybe I'll get to see her when they do it in New York."

Maury D'annato said...

e: it always bothers me when they do that in movies, so I guess it would have bothered me a lot in the opera. Except not because I think I might have been sound asleep by that point.

Maury D'annato said...

danilo: there are certain pieces that are going to be haunted by LHL and that's that.

Alex said...

Careful. The second act sucks WAY worse than the first. Glad to hear the staging is better than the SF/Lyric debacle. Someone please tell me they got rid of the maid.

Alex said...

PS...Ditto on the faux countdown thing. Sellars should be cited for audience abuse.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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