Music and Vision homepage Jenna Orkin: Writer Wannabe Seeks Brush With Death - From the heights of greatness (the Juilliard School; musicians Rosalyn Tureck and Nadia Boulanger) via way-ward paths to the depths of wickedness these reminiscences will entertain and enlighten.

 

<<  -- 4 --  Tess Crebbin    LIFE AND DEATH

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The opera lasted two hours without a break, which some première guests considered to be rather long, but the presence of a gang of angels, sixteen of them, all red-haired and singing a mixed chorus, solo and canons, was so engaging that everyone paid attention until the end. It remains a mystery why angels have red hair or why they watch and assist someone's suicide rather than stepping in to prevent it, but then, modern opera is all about mystery and about discovering what lies beneath the obvious.

'At first glance, my opera may seem disjointed,' Ferneyhough said, 'but this is because I want my audience to really pay attention and find out that beneath the surface, there is unity and a very together story that is being told in the music.'

A scene from 'Shadowtime'. Photo © Regine Koerner
A scene from 'Shadowtime'. Photo © Regine Koerner

Shadowtime consists of seven scenes that act as self-contained units with their own sound images, instrumentation and structure. The most engaging of those is the fourth, which Ferneyhough calls 'the central showdown, the frozen heart of the opera'. Benjamin's journey into the underworld is symbolized by a bar pianist. Playing his heart out long after the bar has closed, he keeps discussing epistemological issues with his piano and with the angel who stands by to turn the pages of his score.

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Copyright © 3 June 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany

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