Monday, 20 October 2014

The Death of Klinghoffer at the Met

John Adams The Death of Klinghoffer  at the Met today. HERE is a link to Estelle Gilson's review in Opera Today. When it opened at the ENO in London in 2012, reports in the press led one to believe there'd be mass protests. In the event, there was only one protestor, a nice polite gentleman. Maybe he went in and saw the show. He wasn't there when  we left. The subject is emotive, and important, but Adams's treatment is not incendiary. It's the nature of his music. Repetitive, ruminative cadences, which suggest contemplation rather than imposed narrative. Perhaps it's the very anti-drama in this music that provokes response. The subject is even more important now than when the opera was written. The world is altogether a more dangerous place than when the events it depicts took place. It's important that we deal with the issues as objectively as possible because the world isn't suddenly going to get safer soon unless we think about things. HERE is a link to the review I wrote in 2012 for Opera Today

"Adams's abstracted cadences evoke blurred boundaries: endless waves on the sea, the whirr of a ship’s engine, the slow ticking away of time. Unfortunately, this music also evokes tedium. Facts about the hijack of the Achille Lauro are projected onto the stage to keep us alert, but the music is saying something else altogether. Furthermore, Adams sets text counter-intuitively, so syntax is distorted in favour of unsettling stresses in places that would not occur in speech. Because our brains don’t process language in this way, meaning is sacrificed. It’s not good when you have to concentrate on sub-titles to figure out what’s being sung. Alice Goodman’s libretto has been criticized for being opaque, but it closely reflects Adams’s musical technique. Images are blurred and shift shape. In the opening Chorus, it’s deliberately unclear who the protagonist is. Is she a young woman in love or an old woman awaiting death? Or both? It’s immaterial. She’s a composite of millions who have been exiled throughout history".........

"Things pick up in the Second Act, when Adams frees himself from earnest pseudo-documentary. Up to this point the action has mainly been in choruses. Now we have individuals with whom we can identify. Some of the words they sing come from transcripts made at the time, others are imaginative creations. It doesn’t matter. In these arias there’s dramatic reality. Leon Klinghoffer is presented as a likeable hero, and at last the opera has human focus. Alan Opie sings Klinghoffer so he comes over as a strong, reasonable man of authority, establishing a moral compass. The Aria of the Falling Body anchors Adams’s wavering oscillations with emotional truth."

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