Composer Robert Ashley’s “opera” (experimental performance piece is a more appropriate name, although if an opera is a multifaceted convolution of music, text, and motion, I suppose this is an opera) That Morning Thing, produced for the first time in 40 years at The Kitchen as part of the Performa 11 biennial, is among the most difficult pieces I’ve experienced. It’s dark. Dark in a way that I wasn’t expecting, dark in a visceral, what the heck just happened to me, I didn’t sign up for this kinda dark. This isn’t (necessarily) a bad thing. But it is a thing that is likely to stick with me for a while. What follows is less a review as it is an effort to come to terms with what I saw and how I responded to it.
Please note, a work like this is bound to be understood in a very subjective manner (if any attempt is made to understand it at all). I make no claims at all that my thoughts are in any way informed, intelligent, or even coherent. Whether my experience with the piece has anything to do with the composers intention is difficult to know, but recording my response may be helpful to myself, or anyone else wrestling with the piece.
The piece starts out innocuously enough. Continue Reading