Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some cracks in the Glass

I hesitate to admit this, because I don't want my recent instances of leaving before things are over to become a habit, but I walked out of the Met's Satyagraha after Act I last night. Why? It was really a confluence of different reasons: I ended up going alone, on a Tuesday night, after two typically long days at work, having taken the cheap route of getting nose-bleed seats in the Family Circle section of the opera house, for an opera listed in the program as ending 15 minutes before midnight. Now, even under all those circumstances, I can imagine seeing La Boheme and staying until the end and loving it. But this isn't your typical repertoire piece. It's more about setting moods than telling a linear story. And there weren't any Met Titles - much to the chagrin of the guy sitting to my left - to guide you in any way. The text projected directly on the scenery was, about half the time, obscured for those of us sitting in the back.

Now, I've considered myself a fan of Philip Glass' music for more than a dozen years or so. I'm familiar with a lot of his work, and enjoy listening to it from time to time. But it's almost always in an audio recording or during a film (gotta love that cameo in The Truman Show). And there are times when I find the repetition and resistance to traditional dramatic arcs too much to take, too boring. Last night was one of those times. As much as I respect the Eastern tenets that inspired his approaches, sometimes - I agree with the New York mag review - I need some more Western-style progression, more purposeful direction, something to hold onto and move forward with. I believe this might be a case where I have to be in the right, receptive mood or circumstances to be able to experience the whole piece. And this was all the more disappointing because I wanted to learn more about Gandhi's life, and the structure of the work doesn't really share it with you if you're not already familiar with the particulars.

With all that said, I do still like Glass' music, but - perhaps I'm realizing - on my own terms and in my own timeframe. With that in mind, check out this cool online applet called the IBM Glass Engine that allows you to browse through his oeuvre by different criteria.

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