Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Satyagraha: A Night At The Opera

I always wanted to see a Phillip Glass opera before I die. But oh my god! the people you get at the opera.

Let me be plain. I love Phillip Glass. I was thrilled at the idea of sitting through a four hour treatise on nonviolent intervention in Sanskrit. But I've not been to the opera in 10 years. And it's the first time I'd ever been to the ENO.

After an evening with people who think that Radio 3 is dumbed down, I was twitching. Every interval conversation I heard was maddening ("oh, i think the staging is far too simplistic...", "On a tangent between philosophy and history", "goodness, at this rate we won't get home until after 11, and i've so much to do when i get back!"). The man next to Rick breathed loudly and appreciatively throughout (a sharp "ah!" for a moment of beauty, a long "ahhhhhh!" for melancholy, and a snuffling grunt for oxygen processing).

Also, just as the opera teaches about the virtue of shedding your personal wealth, so too does the bar (£10 for two glasses of vile white wine. ouch).

But what of the opera? Well, Ghandi comes on and sings. As does a lady with an umbrella. Tolstoy climbs up to his loft. Behind them hoardes of peasants take their shoes off, read newspapers, build giant fighting monsters out of them, while stars come down from heaven and everyone's coats fly up. It was indescribably beautiful. I started crying about 20 minutes in and then was fine after the first interval. It was the most amazingly staged thing ever. I still don't understand it, and never ever shall. But I'm so glad I saw it.

It was best summed up by Rick. "I'm really cross I missed the giant fish transform into Ganesh."


Anonymous said...

On your recommendation, have just got the CD of this out of Cardiff library. A whole new world may be about to open up before me...


Skip said...

oh - that's brave. But if you can get it, go for the "Songs From The Trilogy" album first.

It's got all the, er, musical bits in from all 3 operas.

The most accessible opera is deffo Akhenaten (with the Hymn to the Sun being a firm fave).

The most pleasingly bonkers opera is Einstein on the Beach which skids majestically between Stunning and Noisy. The libretto for that one is at least in English - even if it is based on poetry written by an autistic child.

And don't forget "It could be Frankie, it could be very fresh and clean. Let me get some wind, get some wind for the sailboat."