“Revolution of Forms”

This is the one I’m most excited about. Anthony Davis has done interesting work in opera already, Prieto is an excellent contemporary jazz musician, the librettists are experienced and talented. On the opposite side, there’s real danger already in two composers collaborating, and with two librettists added things could either succeed gloriously or fail dramatically. But that’s opera!

Music hasn’t started yet, but this is a good looking libretto; punchy, aphoristic, neither prose nor poetry, the kind of words on a page that allow a lot to be filled in by music, as opposed to the previous libretto where the words left nothing for the composer to do but to accompany. Kneeplay 1, Golf Course, 1961, with Che and Fidel; combination of contemporary music writing and Afro-Cuban rhythms, crafting has it really working, firmly in the Bernstein aesthetic, which is a great American aesthetic; Scene 1, School of Modern Dance in Havana . . . something like a son rhythm going on, with syncopated strings and chorus, polyphonic, polyrhythmic, this is really, really good . . . relaxed, sweet meringué with Greek chorus, musically great . . . Not a complaint, but I think I’d like to hear how this sounds with the voices of the characters switched, the lead Porro as a baritone, not a tenor, Garatti and Gottardi as tenors. There’s something about the music that centers it in the abdomen, and I think that the baritone fits the power the best . . . Scene 2, Porro’s Office; now with his wife, tenor sounds better – this is the way my mind works, since I’m an opera composer . . . this music is a real pleasure, has the attraction of the Afro-Cuban rhythms, but it’s not pandering or ‘cross-over,’ it’s serious, sincere and fully expressive of it’s own drama . . . Scene 3; a dark swagger . . . there are characters with and against each other, individuals arrayed against the masses, the orchestra conveying and intermediating the music of each, this is not only very well done but also really stretches into the kind of things that only opera can do, this piece is ambitious, understands its own form and possibilities, and is really successful. Really hope they get this on stage. I see dancing . . . and it is good.


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.