Saturday, December 10, 2011

Satyagraha HD Encore

Wednesday night I was at the movies for the encore presentation of the Met's Satyagraha, mainly to see the staging. The production features 12 members of the Skills Ensemble who operate huge puppets, walk on stilts, hang in the air & manipulate low-tech items like newspapers & rolls of tapes. Their ritualistic activities fit well with the score. The use of long strips of newspapers to represent the publication of Indian Opinion in act II was effective, & it was striking to see a human figure emerge from long ribbons of tape in act III. I also liked seeing the text projected onto newsprint held up by the performers.

One thing that does not come across in these broadcasts is the acoustic, but tenor Richard Croft clearly makes a clean, pure sound. His performance as Gandhi was very still. He sang the repetitions of the ascending motif at the end of the opera with great control & nice variations in timbre. Mezzo Mary Phillips sounded powerful & emphatic as a European defender of Gandhi in act II.

Philip Glass's music must be frustratingly difficult to learn, but the singers & the orchestra always sounded assured. I felt sorry for the woodwinds when they had to play those rapid scale passages over & over. Conductor Dante Anzolini created an even, trance-like flow by not over-emphasizing the beats. Act II had an especially sustained & mesmeric mood.

The broadcast was hosted by Eric Owens. Extra features included live interviews with Mr. Croft, chorus master Donald Palumbo, director Phelim McDermott & composer Philip Glass, who claimed that even though Maestro Anzolini's tempos were faster than usual, the over-all running time of the opera was longer. There was also an informative documentary about Gandhi's early years in South Africa. For some reason the clips of highlights from the Lepage Ring made me giggle. The movie audience looked like your typical SF Opera audience, only older. Someone in a seat near the screen took flash photos several times & was yelled at both during & after the screening.

§ Satyagraha
Philip Glass
The Metropolitan Opera
Live in HD Encore

Conductor: Dante Anzolini
Production: Phelim McDermott
Live in HD Host: Eric Owens

M. K. Gandhi: Richard Croft
Prince Arjuna: Bradley Garvin
Lord Krishna: Richard Bernstein
Miss Schlesen: Rachelle Durkin
Mrs. Naidoo: Molly Fillmore
Kasturbai: Maria Zifchak
Mr. Kallenbach: Kim Josephson
Parsi Rustomji: Alfred Walker
Mrs. Alexander: Mary Phillips

Improvisational Puppetry: The Skills Ensemble

December 7, 2011 6:30 PM

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