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Category: opera

A Sweetwater Stream: Evolution of the Aesthetic Container

It might be a signal of the end of the industrial age. Of course, industrial-style production in factories will continue, but just as powerful efficiencies were created that radically changed the economics of manufactured goods, digital production is continuing its rampage of creative destruction. The politics and economics of the copying and sharing of digital files should be the subject of deep thinking and dialogue. But instead, on the one hand we have an industrial argument that mechanically reproduces itself; and on the other we have a digital argument that copies and pastes itself into a seemingly infinite number of online fora.

To start this exploration, we must trace the evolution of the product of industrial output. However, the focus here is specifically on the container used to deliver aesthetic product. For a certain generation there’s a well-known complaint. It seems like I’m buying the same music over and over again. Every time the music industry changes the standard format, I have to replace my collection. I had the vinyl, the cassette, the CD, the remastered CD and now the digital file. I’ve got the MP3, but what I really want is the high quality FLAC. It turns out that I’m not buying the music after all. I buy the container, the delivery method, and I buy one container after another. Each new standard container format makes some improvement in the audio quality and more importantly lowers production costs and increases margins. All manufactured aesthetic (and rhetorical) containers are moving along this path in an attempt to increase productivity and efficiency. All of these container formats are converging on the digital file as the lowest possible cost delivery mechanism.

Prior to the widespread distribution of the Network, the digital file seemed to be an innovation of the same kind as its predecessors. Slavoj Zizek, in his essay “The Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie” exposes the mechanics of the incredibly high margins made possible by the combination of digital production and worker compensation through stock options (prior to 2005, stock options did not need to be recognized as an expense on a corporate income statement).

How did Bill Gates become the richest man in America? His wealth has nothing to do with Microsoft producing good software at lower prices than its competitors, or ‘exploiting’ its workers more successfully (Microsoft pays its intellectual workers a relatively high salary). Millions of people still buy Microsoft software because Microsoft has imposed itself as an almost universal standard, practically monopolizing the field, as one embodiment of what Marx called the ‘general intellect’, by which he meant collective knowledge in all its forms, from science to practical knowhow. Gates effectively privatized part of the general intellect and became rich by appropriating the rent that followed.

The possibility of the privatization of the general intellect was something Marx never envisaged in his writings about capitalism (largely because he overlooked its social dimension). Yet this is at the core of today’s struggles over intellectual property: as the role of the general intellect – based on collective knowledge and social co-operation – increases in post-industrial capitalism, so wealth accumulates out of all proportion to the labour expended in its production. The result is not, as Marx seems to have expected, the self-dissolution of capitalism, but the gradual transformation of the profit generated by the exploitation of labour into rent appropriated through the privatization of knowledge.

The digitally-produced object is different than its industrially-produced predecessors in an fundamental way—the container is now a digital text. Owning a vinyl record did allow me the ability to create mix tapes, but it didn’t contain a method of spawning more vinyl records from the one I’d purchased. In the digital format, the aesthetic product is transformed into a quoted text written in an alphabet of 1s and 0s. Every personal computer has the capability to read, quote and re-quote digital texts—and this is the crux of the digital container crisis. If you can sell a digital file as though it were the analog output of an industrial process, outsized rents can be generated when large scales are achieved.

The problem is that when the digital file player is also capable of reading and re-quoting the text (code) and then sending a copy to any other node on the Network, the commercial distribution network is quickly dwarfed by the potential social sharing Network. What was a physical container produced through industrial manufacturing has become speech / text / code. The free circulation of speech and the protection of intellectual property rights collide in what Zizek calls the “privatization of knowledge.”

The Network utopians take the view that the free circulation of texts is essential to the nature of the Network. Attempting to impose limits on sharing is striking at the very heart of the Network. And while this approach easily solves the free speech issue, it doesn’t do much for the intellectual property side of the equation. Some say that intellectual property should be eliminated. Some industries, like fashion, for instance, operates without those kind of restrictions. Copying is part of the culture. Top designers even copy themselves, producing low-cost knock offs for the discount stores. But here we’re still dealing with analog manufacturing. If fashion were to become digital and buying new clothes simply involved selecting a style and printing out an outfit. There would be no difference between haut couture and pirate couture.

Other approaches to the problem depend on the good-heartedness, or laziness, of the consumer. Gabe Newell, co-founder of videogame company ‘Valve,’ is quoted as saying:

“One thing we have learned is that piracy is not a pricing issue. It’s a service issue. The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting anti-piracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from pirates.”

To some extent this is what happened with Apple’s iTunes store and the P2P file sharing network Napster. This approach works until your service technology is also primarily constructed of code. Once that’s true, what’s to stop a pirate from simply copying and pasting your service technology onto their servers. Each improvement you make is replicated to the pirate server as fast as bits can travel over wires. Is this the point that you put “anti-piracy technology to work”?

Moving back to the evolution of the container, there are some who say the “file” has had its day. Once you’ve got all those files locally stored and backed up on a series of hard disks, you look at the mess of hardware you’ve accumulated and cry out for a better solution. Here’s where the cloud (remote storage lockers) comes into the picture. All those files can be moved to a service that remotely stores them for a small fee. Alternatively you have the Netflix / Spotify model of charging the consumer rent for access to the company’s collection of digital files via an authorized stream.

Instead of moving big digital files over the Network, a stream sends just enough of the file to create a local cache which facilitates smooth playback on your viewing device. The stream attempts to recapture the qualities of the analog container—you can’t copy and share your stream. The stream is a part of a file, the streaming service never intentionally exposes the complete file. With some added pirating technology, you can convert the full set of streamed bits into a file and share that file. Potentially, you could even set up a server to stream the copied file to someone else.

Generally, streaming services attempt to control both ends of the transmission. If the streaming transmitter owns and operates the receiver sitting on the audience’s local device, the odds of preventing unauthorized copying and sharing are higher. The talk about “Apps” vs. the “Web” boils down to the control of data (text) streamed from centralized APIs. The cable television companies with their “cable boxes” were the first to employ this architecture. Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, Kindle, iPad, iCloud, HBOgo, CNN, the New York Times and many others have extended the strategy.

The record and the record player are becoming a single unit. They’re an updated form of the jukebox with a very large central digital catalog. All the big players are employing the same technical and architectural approach; the competitive difference is the size and quality of the library. As Zizek observes about Microsoft, the goal is to become a universal standard; a de facto monopoly. If any of these services can achieve that size, they manage to eliminate the “outside.” There’s no longer a need to copy and share through the greater external Network, because there is no outside of Netflix or Spotify. Sharing within the private network is both good for business and means that you’ve converted the people you want to share with into members of the private network. The large scale of the custom infrastructure required for a universal jukebox sets a very high barrier to entry for potential competitors. Facebook has been masterful at this.

Going universal is a zero-sum game. In order for you to win, somebody else has to lose. But there is another approach to the problem of intellectual/artistic property and the Network and it looks very promising. The universal jukebox strategy treats aesthetic product as a commodity. It’s unconcerned with artists or the actual aesthetic content of a work of art. It’s the quality of the delivery system, the player, that matters. Finding stuff, getting good suggestions for stuff and an easy “play” mechanism are the keys. A big catalog with a long tail allows the universal jukebox to punt on issues of aesthetic judgement.

There are two examples of artist-centered streams that offer some hope outside of the industrial streaming complex. The first example is a stream produced by New York’s Metropolitan Opera. They’ve created a national audience for their live HD opera broadcasts. The “player” is the network of movie theaters around the country set up to receive live HD streams and project them on to big screens with state-of-the-art sound systems. I attended a recent performance of the Baroque pastiche “The Enchanted Island” at a local movie theater. Here there’s no option to capture the stream with local computing power and store it in a file. And because you’re watching a live performance, not a replay of a file, there’s a very attractive element of danger. The technology serves the art, and the artistry is of a very high level. This delivery system has been expanded to include live symphony and theater performances and has the potential to establish a new art form where film evolves by retrieving something from the performing arts.

The second example is a little company in the north bay called the Tamalpais Research Institute. Here’s the mission statement from the About Us page:

Tamalpais Research Institute is the vision of Bob Weir, a founding member of the Grateful Dead. Weir and his team have built a state-of-the-art performance studio for broadcasting live HD video and audio streams directly to the Internet.

TRI is a virtual venue where fans can gather and enjoy the performances in the comfort of their own homes, or anywhere they have Internet access.

The main performance space at TRI houses a Meyer Sound Constellation System – a revolutionary acoustic modeling technology which has the ability to dramatically change the acoustical properties of the room. With the touch of a button, an artist can instantly change the sonic environment from that of a small intimate club to sounding like a theater, an arena or even a cathedral.

Each show will be directed, filmed, and mixed live in real time. Every care will be taken to provide the highest possible upstream bandwidth to transmit high quality HD video and audio to the end user. The live stream will be accessible by and tailored to a variety of viewing equipment such as mobile devices, streaming players, game consoles, computers, Internet ready HDTV’s as well as home theaters.

All of this will take place in a small intimate setting in front of a live studio audience. The musicians may be playing in the domain of Mount Tamalpais, but their music will be beaming out to the entire free world.

Bob Weir and the Grateful Dead have had a very different relationship with pirates over the years. There’s a sense in which they harnessed the power of the pirates to create a marketing network for their live performance business. And despite the fact that you can find a large number of free bootleg recordings of Grateful Dead shows on, the band has a thriving business with their Dick’s Picks series. They continue to mine their catalog of live performance recording with a new series of limited edition releases called Dave’s Picks.

But that was then. This is now. In addition to establishing the TRI studio, Weir has reopened Sweetwater, the historic Mill Valley nightclub. And Sweetwater streams too:

Sweetwater’s new location in the Masonic Hall allowed for the complete renovation of a space that has hosted live music and events for more than a century. The remodeled interior is modern sleek, boasting state-of-the-art sound and streaming video technology, with clean sight lines and cozy hangout spots. It also features a gourmet cafe offering locally-sourced, organic fare.

There are a couple of directions you can explore if you’re interested in the future of the stream. You can look toward the battle of the giants attempting to establish a network-powered universal jukebox; or, you can look at what the artists are doing and check out the little nightclub that Bob Weir is building on his node of the Network.

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The Shadows the Future Casts

икони цени

I’ve always thought the phrase ‘full-throated endorsement’ a bit odd. It pulls human physicality into the conversation as a kind of speaking done with the whole body. The ‘throat’ is called out, but as a metonym for the speaking body situated in a political-historical-ecological space. The speaker throws herself into the words, come what may.

The phrase also has a resonance with ‘singing in full voice.’ In rehearsal, opera singers will often sing in ‘half voice’ to spare themselves for the performance. When the curtain goes up, the singer must throw himself into the music, come what may. It’s in this sense that opera is a full-throated art form, the opera itself must also sing in full voice. It must match and fill the grand space of the opera house. As new operas are produced, they give voice to the deep currents flowing through our culture. And to make their mark, they mustn’t sing in half voice.

Mounting a production of a new opera is no small task, they are literally years in the making. Here’s San Francisco Opera’s General Director David Gockley on creating “Heart of a Soldier”:

But popular subjects and heroic characters alone do not make good operas. In the end, is the music any good in its own right? In opera, music tells the story. The text provides the skeleton, music the flesh and blood. Twenty-five years after Adams’s ‘Nixon in China’ told the ‘back story’ of the Nixon/Kissinger visit to China in 1972, the opera has legs because of the composer’s brilliant score. Will ‘Heart of a Soldier’ be this successful? Who knows. The important thing is to get these pieces launched with fanfare and good attendance, and then they are on their own! For better or worse, my career as an opera producer has been punctuated with many of these launches. My work will be judged by the quality of the pieces I have midwifed, and in most cases I will be long gone before the jury renders its verdict

Reading Gockley’s note in the ‘Heart of a Soldier’ program earlier this year brought to mind Shelley’s ‘Defense of Poetry.’ Gockley clearly has the sense that these operas he midwifes are objects situated perennially in the future. We must create operas in the here-and-now, but with their initial performance we only see the tip of the shadow cast from their location in the future. Each time an opera is performed, we open that door to the future and attempt to apprehend the broadcast of new signals as they occupy and resonate with the present moment.

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote the book on the temporal state of the work of art. Here’s the conclusion of his ‘Defense of Poetry”:

Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration, the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present, the words which express what they understand not, the trumpets which sing to battle and feel not what they inspire: the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.

At a recent performance of Philip Glass’s opera ‘Satyagraha’ at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, a door was opened and the music filled the opera house and then overflowed into the plaza outside of the building. There it received another performance through the full-throated chorus of the human microphone. The composer, Philip Glass, lead the chorus in the closing lines of the opera which come from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’:

“When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again.”

For the longest time, the tone of our public voice has been tinged with irony. But there seems to be a change in the weather. As Tim Morton is fond of to saying, ‘the Sincerity Fish ate the Irony Fish on the bumper sticker on the back of my car.’ Somehow the full-throated voice is more in tune with sincerity. But the reason irony came to rule the day is that there’s a real danger in sincerity. As Jean Giraudoux once said:

The secret to success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

How do we tune ourselves to listen to full-throated sincerity? Heidegger addresses the issue in his translation of the poet Holderlin’s ‘Patmos’, saying:

But where danger is, grows the saving power also.

In the new operas we have given to the future, we allow both the danger and the saving power to cast their shadows. A door opens…

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A Ring Cycle For The Anthropocene

This past week I attended the San Francisco Opera’s production of Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung. For those unfamiliar with this ritual, the work is comprised of four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdamerung. They tell the story of the twilight of the gods. When presented as The Ring, the four operas are presented within a single week and the total running time of the work is about 17 hours. It’s a massive work consisting of 2,092 pages of orchestra music, and this production requires the participation of 415 people and 12 animals. Mounting a production of the Ring Cycle is one of the most challenging things an opera company can attempt. Generally, three full cycles are performed. When a company with the stature of San Francisco Opera performs The Ring, it draws an audience from around the world. This was my third Ring Cycle. The Ring is too vast to address fully in a blog post, so instead I’ve decided to just string together some notes, some moments that stood out to me this time through. This was an American Ring, the tale begins with the California gold rush and ends in the near future.

* * *

The characters and narrative of The Ring are loosely derived from Norse mythology. But as new productions are mounted through the years, The Ring attracts the major threads of modern thought. The unconscious, capital, class, gender, power, sexuality, and race have all surfaced in one production or another. In director Francesca Zambello’s American Ring, ecology and the interconnectedness of things provides the environment in which the story unfolds. Here the canvas of the story isn’t a neutral backdrop, it’s affected by the actions and decisions of the characters. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of Timothy Morton, so the idea that The Ring should address the ecological thought seems completely natural.

Alberich steals the gold from the Rhinemaidens and forsaking love, he fashions it into a ring of power. Wielding that power, he begins a massive gold mining operation, delving deep into the earth, he turns the magic power of the ring into the material power of gold. The stage pictures bring to mind Sebastiao Salgado’s photographs of gold mining in Brazil. Meanwhile in the world of the gods, Wotan has flipped the structure of the gold mine upwards toward the heavens and created a Valhalla of skyscrapers. But like so many in the recent mortgage crises, he’s purchased a Valhalla that he can’t afford. In order to avoid default on the fortress of the gods, Wotan resorts to crime. He must steal the gold from the thief Alberich—a little money laundering to cover up the stains on the foundation of the godhead.

In Zambello’s Ring, the concentration and exercise of power drains the earth of its life. Power is drawn from the environment, but the earth isn’t an infinite resource. As the operas unfold, the environment has been turned into a standing reserve– a battery, or a gas tank, to power the regime. At the beginning of the third act of Gotterdamerung, the Rhinemaidens are destitute, collecting trash in big garbage bags as their river has been choked with the flotsam and jetsam of the industrial wasteland surrounding them. The struggle for the Ring taking place in the foreground is interrupted by the background of the story. The river would like its gold back.

At the end of the Ring Cycle, Brunhilde has understood that the Ring must be returned to the river and that this will mean the end of the gods. The music registers the cataclysm of the fall of Valhalla and the cleansing power of the river to wash the sins from our hands. The end of the Cycle points to an ending as beginning. One door closes and another opens. Zambello is an optimist, the return of the Ring represents the possibility of renewal. Throughout the story we’ve seen the earth’s finitude, the director’s gesture in the very last stage picture indicates the damage is not beyond repair.

* * *

The Ring Cycle is so large that there’s no vantage point from which to take it all in. Well before the first notes, the experience begins to engulf you. There’s a review of the motifs with Deryck Cooke. Listening to favorite recordings, trying to get the sequence of events in the story lined up. Thinking about the singers cast in various roles and whether they’ll be up to the daunting task ahead.

Believe me, nobody has every composed in this manner. I think my music must be frightening. It is a morass of horrors and sublimities.

—Wagner to Liszt, January 1854

Once the performance begins you’re well into the middle of it. The opera is broadcasting on all frequencies and flooding the senses. In this experience of the Ring Cycle, I had the distinct impression that the music continued between performances of the individual operas. While there aren’t hummable tunes in the Ring, the motifs of the music seemed to detach themselves from the opera and emerge from the America that exists outside of the opera.

Even after the final end, the music continues to play, the cycle begins again. Once inside, there may be no outside.

* * *

Several years ago, the San Francisco Opera commissioned a work by John Adams called ‘Doctor Atomic.’ It’s the story of the creation of the atom bomb. The director of the premiere was Peter Sellars. In a talk he gave about the opera, he noted that the stage of the War Memorial Opera House directly faces City Hall, the seat of power for local government. The relationship between the buildings provided an avenue for art to speak to government.

Perhaps we no longer think that art has anything useful to say to government. But the two buildings sit across from each other, waiting for the moment when the conversation begins to flow in both directions. Like ‘Doctor Atomic,’ the Ring Cycle had something to say to government.

* * *

The curtain came down after the final act of Gotterdamerung and applause erupted. Then the curtain rose for Nina Stemme, the Brunehilde of this Cycle. A solo bow, in acknowledgement of her achievement. The crowd leapt to its feet applauding, shouting, whistling, in a unanimous ovation. It was a thrilling moment.

And an unusual moment between the second and third acts as Donald Runnicles, the conductor, took his place. A spontaneous standing ovation for the orchestra. As a friend said during that intermission, “man, they’re just wailing.”?

* * *

Leafing through The Ring’s program, I noticed the names of the individual and corporate sponsors. Opera is an expensive business, and David Gockley, the general director of SF Opera, has made it clear that the company is in financial straights. The big donors to the opera are small in number and advanced in age. He openly wonders where the next generation of patrons will come from.

This brought to mind Cynthia Salzman’s book ‘Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures.’ The new world started from cultural scratch.

“In the late nineteenth century, as industrialization transformed the United States into a world power, artists and writers decried the nation’s meager collections of art. “I cannot tell you what I suffer for want of seeing a good picture,” Mary Cassatt complained from the confines of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, in June 1871. The twenty-seven year old artist had spent five years painting in Europe and longed to return. The novelist Henry James view the problem more broadly. Americans, he told his mother in 1869, seem to have “the elements of the modern man with with culture quite left out.” Ten years later, in writing about Hawthorne and famously listing the cultural assets missing from the United States in the early part of the century, James, who had himself decamped for England in the mid-1870s, conveyed his own sense of deprivation: “no cathedrals, nor abbeys, nor little Norman churches, no great Universities nor public schools—no Oxford, nor Eton, nor Harrow; no literature, no novels, no museums, no pictures.” Later, in 1906, when the British critic Roger Fry served as curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he tallied the museum’s pictorial shortfall: “no Byzantine paintings, no Giotto, no Giottoesque, no Mantegna, no Botticelli, no Leonardo, no Rafael, no Michelangelo.”

The giants of industry, Henry Clay Frick, J. Pierpont Morgan, H.O. Havermeyer and Henry Gurdon Marquand, took an interest in redressing the imbalance of culture in the new world. The great fortunes amassed during this period were put into service for one of “history’s great migrations of art.”? It was an event that fundamentally changed the character of this country.

In this day and age, it’s something we take for granted. The museums are filled with pictures, the symphony hall with music, and the opera house with divas. Perhaps we think this high art is the province of the upper classes, the restricted playground for old money. It’s a living legacy and if the next generation doesn’t take it up, it could very easily disappear. The performing arts are in particular danger.

Donald Fisher, founder of The Gap, collected more than 1,000 contemporary paintings and eventually donated them to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. But could it be that his is the last generation to have a real connection to the arts? The new generation of technology billionaires seems more interested in popular culture, sports and science. As I leafed through the program of the Ring Cycle, I didn’t see the names Google, Apple, Intel, Oracle, Cisco, Facebook or Microsoft. Rich technologist seem to prefer to put their money back into technology through venture capital investing.

I’m not sure what it would take to connect the Silicon Valley’s Techno-Elite to Opera. But if it were to happen the possibilities would be immense. San Francisco has a long history with opera. The gold rush of 1849 brought masses of people to Northern California. San Francisco’s first opera production was in 1851, Bellini’s ‘La Sonnambula.’ Morosco’s Grand Opera House held an audience of 4,000, including standees. A signal event in the rebirth of the City after the 1906 earthquake was the concert by the soprano Luisa Tettrazini in front of Lotta’s Fountain. It’s said that as many as 250,000 people attended. More recently the annual Opera in the Park and Opera in the Ballpark events draw enthusiastic crowds from all walks of life.

In the era of the 140-character communique it may seem counter-intuitive to yearn for the total theater of the opera, but opera performance actually delivers on what 3D HD movies promise. And strangely, at this moment in history with music, singers, musicians, technology and composers we could be at the cusp a of great new era of opera. Here are two examples of new operas that take up the current of our times. This Fall, San Francisco Opera will debut ‘Heart of a Soldier’ by Christopher Theofanidis, with libretto by Donna Di Novelli. It tells the story of Rick Rescorla, a man trained to be a consummate solider who gave up his life saving thousands during the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001.

And perhaps closer to the pulse of technology flowing through the Bay Area, the English National Opera recently debuted Nico Muhly’s ’Two Boys’ with libretto by Craig Lucas. Here’s a description from a Wall Street Journal review:

A prepubescent boy is stabbed, and a teenaged boy is caught leaving the scene on CCTV. But the middle-aged female detective in charge of the investigation, caught up in the intricacies of chat-rooms, user-names, apparent espionage and cybersex, comes to realize that she has to change her own mind-set if she is to understand the behavior of these children and the morality of the internet age.

We say that this technology we’re creating here in the Bay Area is changing everything. I wonder if we’ll every take it seriously enough to engage technology in a deep conversation with art and culture? The War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco could be the site of one of the great historical conversations about the times we live in. If only the right connections could be made…


The Makropulos Case and the Religion of Engineers

We look at time in an abstract way and see it stretching out to the horizon, leaping off the edge of the world and galloping on without limit into the wilds of the universe. In a sense, we view the infinity of time as a limitless extension of a space. A line the continues beyond the boundaries of human sight. The analog watch puts time on a leash and walks it around a dial on our wrist.

One of the many thoughts that flooded through my mind while watching San Francisco Opera‘s production of Leos Janacek‘s The Makropulos Case had to do with the religion of the engineers. This idea of the singularity, of shedding this mortal coil in favor of an electronic/digital instantiation of whatever it is we call our lives. The advantage, at least from an engineering perspective, is that, in silicon, we live forever. Or at least that’s the idea in so-called transhumanist circles.

The original story of Janacek’s opera was written by Karel Capek, who is probably better known as the author of the play R.U.R.— a story that featured and coined the term, robot. The engineering version of paradise and eternal life takes the form of inhabiting the robot, where all that was irreplaceable in our mortality can be put on a charge card at the hardware store. Worn parts easily replaced or upgraded.

Janacek’s The Makropulos Case takes a look at what immortality does to the morality of its anti-heroine, Elina Makropulos. Perpetual youth leaves her nothing but apathy and disconnection from the people around her. She’s lived many lifetimes and seen all the people around her grow old and die. The pain and suffering of others has ceased to matter, she’s seen it all before. In the San Francisco Opera production, soprano Karita Matilla, offers a stunningly dramatic performance showing the weight and weariness brought on by eternal youth. The opera, written in 1926, provides a very modern look into the dark side of living an endless series of lifetimes. We often look at the misbehavior of the Greek gods, and wonder how the immortals can be so foolish. Janacek and Capek show us that eternal youth changes the basic equation of human life. All human values are revalued on a payment plan that stretches out to infinity. Something essential is lost in the translation. We’re left with an entity that is too big to fail.

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