I saw Philip Glass’s opera Orphée last Friday night. I had seen the Jean Cocteau film many years ago and being a former student of all things French, I knew what was coming from all directions except one: the music.
My friend Misty had said the night before she was a fan of Philip Glass and that she loved the music. My hopes, therefore, were high.
Opera music is generally BIG. In your face. You can’t miss opera music, usually. You can take a cat nap and still hear every note of the music. That’s how BIG it is.
Glass’s music was, to my taste, bland. I forgot it was there. I tore myself away from the story, tugging myself on the sleeve so that I would listen, but always, it was not much more than white noise. The “schrrrsch” of the radio onstage when it was not broadcasting. The sound a radio makes when it’s between stations or when a station has gone off the air.
I was ready for the mirrors, the illusion, the funny parts like the sentence saying poets are not writers. The motorcyclists of Death whose outfits I would like to wear for a day just for the thrill of being sexy and faceless.
I was not ready for zombie music. I don’t care that the five bloggers in the lobby that night liked the music. I don’t care that the reviewer for the newspaper loved the music. I don’t care that Glass probably scored the music to fit with the themes of the play. He should have known that when you take a film’s dialogue line by line and write music for it, there will be empty spots where nothing happens.
In the theatre, in opera especially, empty spots are boring. In a regular opera, someone is always singing. The only quiet moments are when someone is taking a breath in order to be able to sing again. The singing in this opera was about as interesting as those meaningless broadcasts on Death’s radio. The singers were vocally fabulous but what they had to sing was as much nothing as something.
Yes, the singers were fabulous, the set was fabulous, the Cocteau script was fabulous, but the music…was not. And this was an opera. A zombie opera. Oops.