“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Two Boys

Opera, opera, opera, opera. I had the extreme good fortune to see one on Friday, an opening night no less. Of Two Boys, by Nico Muhly, who isn't even thirty for heaven's sake.

To say that it was one of the most profound art experiences of my life would be entirely correct. This was gut level, Greek tragedy level, sacred theater. It made you feel good about art. It made you feel scared and threatened by illusion. It made you feel heartbroken and smart and horrified and confused.

I won't give too much away here, because you should, in fact must, see it. It's the defining statement so far about the nature of the Internet and what it's doing to us and for us. It is absolutely terrifying and disturbingly playful at one and the same time.

You feel, I think, what the Athenians must have felt the first time they witnessed Oedipus Tyrannus. Really. I'm not kidding.
You understand why drama and music have to be together. Really this is the first opera that truly gripped me by the throat and didn't let go. I now get why people really really dig Wagner.

Oh, the music. The touching, profound ambiguous beautiful music. Wow. By someone who knows about basslines and house and John Adams and Benjamin Britten and Debussy. The first chorus, which the composer describes as a “happy teenspace,” makes you tear up with joy. The way one phrase can be sung and accompanied with such strongly colored yet subtle difference in repetition.

And Two Boys has just the best expanding cone of closures one on top of the other, until they become a disturbing, joyful firework display of Romantic irony. My favorite kind! Where the detective discovers that she—well go and see it. An explosion of awareness and irony.

The computer graphics and the layers of veil-like stage set (and hard and brittle surfaces too, little pieces of room, interstitial non-places as well), were just astonishing. The play between seeing everything as a mind projection—whose? mine? his? hers?—and seeing everything as totally independent and discrete.

Personally I thought it was way beyond Peter Grimes, which I hope isn't heresy.
It makes you realize in general why theater, and perhaps why opera in particular, is the highest artform. Why it can crash so readily is also why it can almost kill you with the threat of the proximity of real human beings, or are they wearing a mask, or is the mask more real than what's underneath...no wonder they called it drama, doing.

Thanks for taking me dad! What a blast.

1 comment:

Bill Benzon said...

I don't suppose you could get to Manchester to hear Bjork, could you?