I love getting invited to experimental/avant-garde/new acts of creation, especially operas.
And Guerilla Opera, the independent collaborative performing ensemble in residence at the Boston Conservatory, gives me lots of opportunity to stretch my expectations not just of what an opera is, but what a performance can be, all while showcasing the talents of some of the finest musicians and stage directors in the Boston area, aka the country/world.
I remember well the time the countertenor in a chicken suit serenaded us in a kiddie pool filled with cheerios.
And the existential multiplicities derived from enjambing the infinite versioning of sandwich making.
Guerilla’s most recent production “Pedr Solis” is equally clever, challenging and esoteric.
The internationally acclaimed composer Per Bloland best known for his Electromagnetically-Prepared Piano, found inspiration for this new work in the abstract modernist writing of the Norwegian novelist Pedr Solis, [I can’t find any of his work in translation. . . let me know if you can. . .] particularly Solis’s most famous novel Stillaset (“The Scaffold”), which he describes as the journey of an unnamed protagonist navigating a seemingly infinite edifice, during which time he discovers a “black book” of Old Norse legends and language which begin to disrupt the narrative, eventually taking over and ultimately being overcome itself by cryptic symbols resembling runes. There is no ending, only a gradual “falling apart.”
The obvious complexities of Pedr Solis’s novel are reflected, rather obviously, in the opera Pedr Solis through adventurous polyphony (often atonal), cryptic obscuring shrouds worn by the chorus, and large wooden blocks which are stacked and measured and moved and knocked down in a series presumably reflecting the development of the narrative.
It’s all fascinating and clever and obviously the result of a lot of time spent by a lot of folks with a lot of education.
And yet I can’t help but think there’s something pretty fundamental missing. Perhaps it’s just a hole in my own education or personal preferences, but I yearn for allusions to more traditional conceptions of melodic beauty or the elegance of complexity in harmony (as opposed to complexity as complexity).
Must “new” music completely eschew these fundamental musical experiences in pursuit of intellectual interest or rigor?
I don’t think so, which is why I’m going to keep going to every new opera I can find for a glimpse of some new and yet unknown beauty.