Tag Archives: PhilipGlass

Review: Hydrogen Jukebox

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While much of the opera world is focusing on the behind the scenes drama at the Met, now would be a good time to take a look at the smaller, more intimate opera companies in your back yard, the ones that are doing amazing work with a teensy fraction of the resources available to the big houses. Here in the Bay Area, the resilient West Edge Opera company (formerly Berkeley Opera) has compressed its entire season into a summer festival whose programming reads like a page from the small opera company’s guide to staying viable in an increasingly dire environment. It includes a reimagined warhorse (Puccini’s La bohème), a tuneful and accessible work from a living composer (Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair), and a more experimental work from a pair of american giants (Philip Glass’s setting of Ginsburg’s poetry, Hydrogen Jukebox). The productions are all done in a non-traditional space, the airy (and heavily windowed) atrium of the Ed Roberts Campus, right above the Ashby Bart Station, and this determined company tackles the ensuing lighting and acoustic challenges head on.

I was able to see the final dress rehearsal of Hydrogen Jukebox, and found the production a testament to what a small company can do. Despite my ambivalence around Glass and Ginsburg, who somehow manage to be simultaneously too much and too little for my tastes, I was won over by the appealing cast and imaginative and resourceful staging. Bay Area stage stalwart Howard Swain plays a non-singing narrator role, providing a worldly wise counterpoint to the fresh-faced sextet of young singers enjoying the fruits and pits of post war, pre-millenial America. War, drugs, sex, and the search for enlightenment are recurring themes in a plotless review as our modern crew of bohemians cross the country via plane, train, and green automobile, responding to the daily news, invoking the dark lord of capitalism, and, surprisingly often, taking their shirts off. Tenor Jonathan Blalock (who was fantastic in Prototype’s Paul’s Case in January) and bass Kenneth Kellogg have been brought in from the east coast, but the rest of the excellent cast is local. Their performances and Elkhanah Pulitzer‘s staging elevate Glass’s music and Ginsbug’s poetry into a rewarding night of theater.

West Edge Opera is a sterling example of a regional company doing remarkable work. As the Bay Area continues to struggle with its artistic identity in the face of an onslaught of internet fueled fortunes with uncertain priorities and values, we would be wise to support this worthwhile institution.


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Einstein and Moby and LINES, Oh My!

It’s been a big week for massive sweeping ambitious works of art. I read Cloud Atlas in preparation for the release of the movie (book is great, movie less so), saw Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick at the SF Opera, watched Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and capped the week offContinue Reading

One Response to Einstein and Moby and LINES, Oh My!

  1. David Rodwin says:

    I have so many thoughts about Einstein that I’m going to do a vlog about it, but for starters, because I’ve become accustomed to listening to the score without seeing the production, I forgot how funny if not silly Robert Wilson can be when at his best. Simultaneously, the Glass, Childs and Wilson are so shockingly on the same page in their approach to minimalism that I was blown away by the coherence and cohesion of vision. I’ve not heard many critics talk about this and perhaps it’s because critics rarely have to collaborate, artists do, so they have a lesser appreciation for something like that. And to have done this decades ago when there was little foundation for what they were striving for and to all be perfectly in sync in their vision leaves me dumbfounded.

    Oh, yeah, and it was all so staggeringly beautiful, I literally wept.

    (The speech about the lovers is so traditional in its story telling and devastating in the context of the post-modern insanity swirling around it)

    AND I was blown away by Kate Moran who has taken over Lucinda Childs’ part in the “knee plays.” She brought a whimsical, wry, human, playfulness and verve to the part. Lucinda, while one of the creators kept her performance so cold it was frozen. Kate has her formality, but she infuses it with irrepressible life. Frankly, I’m in love with her. I need to meet her. Work with her. The works. OK, internet, introduce us.

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Glacial is the New Black: Satyagraha and Shen Wei

Somewhere imprinted in my brain is a sacred rule of story: take only as much time as you need to get an idea across. Get in, make your point, get out. Keep things moving and don’t lose your audience. But this week in New York two separate pieces, both non-narrative, reduced me to tears byContinue ReadingContinue Reading

One Response to Glacial is the New Black: Satyagraha and Shen Wei

  1. David Rodwin says:

    These are my thoughts on Satyagraha. A little less technical a little more emotional.

    And I give a shout out to you and Music vs. Theatre!


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