Monday, June 16, 2003


This saturday night was our third installment of opera care of Opera Theater of St. Louis (OTSL) and a generous gift of season tickets from my parents. Three weeks ago was "Tosca," two weeks ago was "The Abduction from the Seraglio," and this weekend's performance was "Flight" by Jonathan Dove. "Flight" was written for me - maybe too much so. It was a very well combined melange of post-minimalist styles, which should have had me mesmerized; except, the stylistic flavoring from other composers bordered on plagiarism. I spend much of the first act cataloguing the exact works being lifted. A lot of Steve Reich (my favorite composer), especially his "Desert Music;" some bits of Philip Glass' more recent works interspersed - including using a counter-tenor for the lead, reminiscent of "Akhnaten;" a little Leonard Berenstein for familiarity; and I'd swear I heard something akin to Pierre Boulez thrown in to make it interesting. My father and I discussed the opera at length during the intermissions, and I found that my real complaint was that the constant shifting between musical styles removed any coherency from the score, for me anyway, which is exactly opposite any of the works by the original composers. It has made me look forward all the more to seeing "Nixon in China" by John Adams at Opera Theater next summer.

Here're some more sites on minimalism:

  • Satie and minimalism: why Eric Satie and not Terry Riley created the genre.
  • Eric Satie Homepage: I don't necessarily agree with the above site, but I do like Satie.
  • The Official Terry Riley site: the father of the genre - I'm not sure he has any recollection of the '60's, so he's probably happy to give Satie all the credit.

Steve Reich has really carried the torch of minimalism through the years, and with an incomparable sense of composition. John Adams began strongly in the minimalist camp with pieces like "Shaker Loops," but quickly moved into post-modernism with more lyric works like "Harmonium" - sometimes a little too Disney, but still enjoyable. Philip Glass was my introduction to the genre and was a hero of mine until I heard a recent interview on NPR, during which he said he was embarrassed by his earlier, minimalist compositions. Beh! Terry Riley really did start the field, in fact most of the other composers played in his ensemble before going on to their own works, but I'm not entirely sure where he is now - and by the look of his website, I'm not sure I want to know.

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