Friday, November 5, 2010

A Quiet Place

I went last night to City Opera's A Quiet Place, the New York premiere of a full-length opera by Leonard Bernstein. If you can believe that sentence. But it's true - written almost thirty years ago, it's now making its debut in his hometown.

A Quiet Place is long-ish, and overstuffed with musical ideas and I loved it. The music is almost too beautiful and the performances are lovely, across the board. The first act takes place at a funeral, and it feels like every fucked up memorial service you've ever been to, only set to Bernstein music. (The chorus even sings at one point, "What a fucked up family!")

The staging is by Christopher Alden, one of my new favorite directors, after this and last season's Don Giovanni at City Opera. He's got a knack for staging that manifests the psychology of the characters, in ways that never seem obvious or ham-fisted. Or goes against the grain of the music.

I walked up to the window two weeks ago and got a twelve dollar ticket, fifth ring. (The acoustics there always sound better to me than fourth ring, further to the back of the house.) It's gotten rapturous reviews, but the place didn't look full to me. There are five more performances, so go and listen. This man was a giant and it's great to see this work getting its due.

2 comments:

Galen said...

Adoring "Trouble in Tahiti", I rushed out to buy the "Quiet Place" LP when it appeared. Hated it. So I'm really fascinated by the warm reception it's receiving now. I should dig out that LP and listen again, though I wonder if the piece has changed enough that it would be a fair representation of the work as it now stands.

I generally love Bernstein though, and I'm waiting for someone to mount a real, theatrical production of "Mass" that will be worthy of the great and moving work it is.

David Johnston said...

I'd never seen or heard "Tahiti" before but how it's used in "Quiet Place" is very effective. That bouncy jazzy music coming right on the heels of that very dark and complex funeral scene.