Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Loss and mystery as a source of meaning

Stage Director Romeo Castellucci has turned the fact that Schoenberg's final work Moses und Aron is unfinished into a major source of imagery and narrative drive for the two acts that remain. Mystery becomes a source of meaning, much as it does for other visionary artists like Cocteau and David Lynch. Moses's last words, the final ones in the opera, are "Oh word, thou word, that I lack." "More than a limit", Castellucci says, "it seems to me that the unfinished state of this opera is a clever philosophical strategy meant to overthrow the linear perspective of the path, of the exit." We begin on a gauze-covered stage with Moses (Thomas Johannes Mayer) speaking with the Burning Bush, now a Kubrick-style tape recorder spewing magnetic tape in which he becomes entangled. Soon he begins the opera-long dialectic with his brother Aron (John Graham-Hall). Once the gauze is lifted things really become interesting.

Musically this is an exemplary performance. Mayer's Sprechgesang (speech-song) is contrasted with the lyrical and very musical tenor of Graham-Hall, while the chorus plays a central role in the music and the drama. Philippe Jordan keeps the action flowing, making sure that Schonberg's musical ebbs and flow, and not Castellucci's stage business, moves the entire theatrical experience forward. One must mention the shameless scene-stealer in the cast, however. It's the very large live bull, playing the Golden Calf, who brings immense dignity to his role. A star is born!

This short trailer gives you a good idea of the images Castellucci brings to the stage.

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