In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

“Variety, Curiosity, Exploration:” A Composer in Search of Almost Everything

Oct 21, 2015 11:32:00 AM
By BLO Staff

By John Conklin, BLO Artistic Advisor

In my blog article on Philip Glass, I mentioned the multitude of forms, genres, performance styles, and performance forces that he seems to delight in. Here are a few more examples of his range and how he has intriguingly merged virtuosic performances with the essence of his compositional style.

But first up, here’s another chance to sit down across a table from him, via this interview on YouTube. Glass is a very charming and frank companion, and a disarmingly casual speaker even as he deals with very important issues in the life of a contemporary composer.

He has another opera based on Kafka, The Trial which was written in 2014 for the Theater Wales—the same group who gave the premiere of In the Penal Colony. Here, we see how the opera was put together as well as a few scenes.

Satyagraha is, I think, my favorite Glass opera. I saw the premiere in Rotterdam in 1980, and the Metropolitan Opera production (first given in London by the English National Opera) is one of the best productions of any opera that I have seen. Here is a short introduction that features a few of the many striking stage and musical images.

A short digression…outside the Met Opera House, a demonstration, and a moment which shows his political commitment and passion for freedom and justice, an integral part of his personality and musical persona.

Appomattox is another historical meditation, commissioned by the San Francisco Opera in 2007. A new production will be given by the Washington Opera this season.

The famous scene from The Perfect American between Walt Disney (in the last months of his life) and a terrifying “Abraham Lincoln.”  The libretto for this piece is by Rudy Wurlitzer, librettist of In the Penal Colony.

Koyaanisqatsi, Glass’ score to a film by Godfrey Reggio. Philip and his ensemble have played this score live to accompany film showings around the world. In fact, it was at such a presentation in Sydney, Australia, (I was doing The Pearl Fishers there) that I first met Philip, and we had our first discussions about his then-new opera, In the Penal Colony. These details of the whole film project are quite fascinating.

Dracula…a new soundtrack commissioned by Universal Studio to accompany a 1999 DVD release of the 1931 film and written for the Kronos Quartet (frequent collaborators with Glass). Here we see a live performance, accompanying a showing of the film.

Topics: 2015/16 Season, In the Penal Colony, Philip Glass, John Conklin

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