MUSIC / Uncertainty in the city of angels: David Patrick Stearns on Lutoslawski's Fourth and Peter Hall's Magic Flute in Los Angeles
Friday 12 February 1993
Many of the usual reference points of his style are in this score - the dense thickets of pulsating wind counterpoint, the bald solo trumpet writing, the amorphous string harmonies. Yet the expressive purpose of these devices are quite different here. Lutoslawski claims the symphony is in two movements, but my ears say it's a single movement loosely organised in a rondo. There is only one immediately recognisable melody, a plaintive, almost Hebraic-tinged tune stated quietly by the clarinet in the opening pages. It's interspersed with less organised episodes full of dramatic gestures but little lyricism. The longest of these is delicately scored for winds and percussion. Its rarefied beauty turns ugly and violent within a few minutes and finally winds down to a sporadic, descending violin solo. Just as the piece begins to gather steam again with some expansive brass, it's over.
The opening clarinet melody and its many incarnations never reach resolution, and it would be easy to suggest that this is a work of despair. Yet previous sections have such an air of transcendence, the symphony seems an expression of weary uncertainty that's perhaps inevitable at this point in history.
Sir Peter Hall has worked with the Los Angeles Music Center Opera since its inception; his new production of The Magic Flute is easily among his most ambitious efforts here, and was welcomed in the home of Disney: despite mixed reviews, the production was a box-office hit. Gerald Scarfe's richly layered designs were appropriately Egyptian, with singers costumed to resemble hieroglyphics. But he also responded to the opera's whimsical side: the evil Moor, Monostatos (Greg Fedderly), was a misshapen creature with a green face and huge thighs and the animals gathering about Tamino were odd prehistoric mutants. It was frequently enthralling and consistently stageworthy.
Hall also dared to give the dialogue uncut in an intermittently successful attempt to make The Magic Flute resemble integrated theatre. Despite Randall Behr's less than insightful conducting, the cast of fresh, young voices - including Kurt Streit as Tamino, Rodney Gilfry as Papageno and Ann Panagulias as Pamina - spoke and sang their roles like seasoned, thoughtful actors. Only Sumi Jo's Queen of the Night seemed upstaged by the production. She sang her Act 1 aria teetering in mid-air on a black disc - as if just hitting the notes wasn't hard enough.
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Katie Hopkins gives rare glimpse of sensitive side with heartfelt open letter to her children penned in case she dies from epilepsy
- 2 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Indiana Jones sequel confirmed by Lucasfilm - but will Harrison Ford return to the franchise?
How the Other Half Eat, Channel 4 - TV review: Swapping food trolleys shows how food and class are closely connected
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils