Thursday, March 01, 2007

Maud Newton's husband covered the David Lynch event in Union Square last month.

My wife and I went to the David Lynch opera last week. Composer Olga Neuwirth, nobel laureate librettist Elfriede Jelinek, and the Oberlin Conservatory take an odd approach to Lynch's work -- they compress everything except the sadism, which they draw out -- Fred's sedated jailhouse shrieking, Mr. Eddy's assault on the smoker, Alice's rejection of Fred/Pete. If Jelinek confuses the pacing of the story, she does outright violence to the script: the movie's most memorable line is transformed from the all-strong-stressed "Give me back my phone" to the whiny "Give me my phone back."

Now, we fell asleep watching Twin Peaks a few days earlier, so I'm not going to argue against standardizing Lynch's sense of time. But the opera had the effect of persuading me (temporarily) that without the auteur's editing hand, his work is a heap of wet cardboard lit by dying fluorescent bulbs. A week later I am prepared to call this a problem with the opera.

Neuwirth's score ranges from speech and whispers through sprechstimme to some really lovely vocal passages (are they arias? why not). Her use of atmospheric sounds and orchestral textures is as assured as her melodies are tender, but the BAM-level amplification was way too much for Columbia's Miller Theater. And from the first impressions -- the video art-style scrims, the expressionist sets -- I started looking for clues why the piece wasn't at BAM. The cast was mainly terrific; recent grad Michael Weyandt's a very pure tenor baritone, and I was grateful to hear him. Raphael Sacks (Mr. Eddy) is a finer actor than a singer, and he turns out to be a sophomore at Oberlin. Conservatory grad student Alice Teyssier handled well the transition from sullen Renee to sultry Alice, but I don't think Lynch even in his student film days would have cast her.

That may have been the issue for the bigger venues -- this was basically a student production, and it seemed to play well to the eye-patch and black trenchcoat half of the crowd. The senior citizens were less easy to read. As for us, I'm glad we saw it.

Jordan - #




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