Sunday, June 20, 2010

Glass: Kepler: bring on another Zamboni!

I skipped the soccer game last night and instead watched a broadcast of Philip Glass's opera, Kepler. I rather like the odd and (small "b") baroque balance of stylistic forces that have come to settle into Glass's stage music: a set of harmonic patterns reminiscent of the gallant style, sometimes interrupted by moments of polytonal overlay which function here a bit like cinematic cross-fades and an orchestration style, first noticed in Glass's section of the CIVIL warS, that reminds me of Meyerbeer's, of all things, here punctuated by some startling percussion, temple blocks, IthinksIhears. Dennis Russell Davies led a well-shaped and precise orchestral performance and the choir and young soloists were all quite good. I still can't wrap myself with much affection around the solo vocal writing, but here the problem clearly begins with the German libretto, which is basically one declarative sentence after another that Glass sets as one square declarative phrase after another, parroting the punctuation of the sentences. The choral writing is both more fragmented, textually, and phrased more eccentrically. The staging, in which the soloists basically wandered aimlessly, staring here and there without much apparent reason, with Kepler's upward gazes most annoying, made one realize how good both Robert Wilson and Peter Sellars are at giving performers on stage purposeful movement in highly abstract settings. Finally, the stage setting was a pair of all-purpose sets that conveyed little or no purpose, let alone specific connection to the opera, at all. Once again, letting a Zamboni meander and gad about onstage would have been far more interesting and, in an oblique way, maybe even more relevant to the subject matter.

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