A taste of that task had been presented the evening before, at the Budapest Music Center, which was responsible for the whole series of concerts, and which has given the Kurtágs a home in the city. Fin de partie, it was revealed, is to begin, before getting to the play text, with a setting of an English poem by Beckett, “Roundelay,” performed by the singer who will then take on the role of Nell. . .
A feature by Elodie Olson-Coons
. . . Being a woman conductor and being a singer who is also a conductor are rare enough occurrences individually. A woman who conducts and sings at once, in the same performances, and to rave reviews? A rara avis indeed. Watching her take on this incredibly balancing act, one is made aware once more of her sheer physical and mental strength. Her arms are another voice: trained; rippling with strength and emotion—yet another stark marker of the sheer discipline with which she approaches her work. At times, her love of a challenge seems to go even beyond discipline. Writing about the difficulties of playing Lulu, she also writes about her enjoyment of those difficulties: “It hurt like hell and I loved it,” she says of her first time in pointe shoes. “I couldn't wait to lace up every morning. I loved that a doctor had to come to my dressing room after the second performance because as soon as I was offstage I could barely walk.” . . .
A feature by Matthew Spellberg
Opera is an art form as hopelessly stylized as Noh or Kathakali. In their splendidly deadpan history of opera, Roger Parker and Carolyn Abbate put it like this: “Opera is in a basic sense not realistic—operatic characters go about their business singing rather than speaking.” Elsewhere, they elaborate only slightly: “That’s it. That’s opera. Just a lot of people in costumes falling in love and dying.” But opera, though structured like Bartók’s definition of folk culture, also participates fully in Western high art’s commitment to novelty, revolution, and innovation. And herein lies a problem, a second paradox. How do you make legible an art form that is at once stylized, and yet is always revising the code that translates the stylized into the everyday? Imagine a religion which every week changed most of the gestures and much of the language of its ceremony, but still expected the audience to follow it, to understand it...
A feature by Rebecca Lentjes
Ashley’s aversion to plot, to “eventfulness,” makes it nearly impossible to say what Perfect Lives is “about.” It possesses none of the tropes of grand opera (betrayal, love, tuberculosis), only the ordinary themes of the American everyday: money, confusion, forgetfulness, time. “They come to talk, they pass the time. They soothe their thoughts with lemonade.” One can imagine Isolde pondering these words in her mathematical mind, the neighbors sipping lemonade before heading home to watch television.
Most of what we can know about Robert Ashley can be found in Gann’s book, but what we can’t know is to be found in the operas. In Perfect Lives, Ashley’s memories are organized into anecdotes organized into episodes that fade away at the end of the day like the sky in Isolde’s backyard. The lines between the everyday and the infinite, between the known and unknown, blur together like the light and darkness along the horizon . . .
A feature by Christiane Craig
The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's oratorio La Passion de Simone has, over this past year, been re-imagined by Saariaho, adapted specifically for conductor Clément Mao-Takacs’ nineteen-piece Secession Orchestra, vocal quartet, and soprano soloist Karen Vourc’h. This smaller cast, under the stage direction of Aleksi Barrière, provides a more direct and unmediated experience of Saariaho’s sound materials. The expansive tonal force of La Passion de Simone’s first production, an oceanic work for full orchestra, choir, and electronics, has been consolidated but not reduced in the chamber version, its sound colors intensified by a microscopic quality of vision that is perhaps better adapted to the piece’s investigation of human, as well as sonic, interiorities . . .