The morning after the London premiere, I keep finding bits of Alice Goodman’s pretentious libretto, like sand in my shoes after a beach walk. Bits like:
- Deep-silted with the motes of carrion, which stand for light
- Dwellers in Paradise look at each other/ as one looks at the planets in the sky (do they? does one?)
- She was newly manumitted
- As if an ant-lion had caused them to give way (what? how?)
I could go on… Maybe it sounds better in Albanian. Will Self told me he thought the libretto was ‘pretty good’. He’ll need to justify that, somewhere.
However, if you can shut your ears to these stupidities, go see the opera, and for these reasons:
1 It has some pretty cool dancers
2 you can have a good laugh at the designer, who sends them cavorting around with green flags – symbol of the Gaddafi regime.
3 The video backdrop is highly effective and saves lots of money on scenery.
4 The orchestra play sensationall well, conducted by Baldur Broenimann.
5 The score is the most ambitious and versatile that John Adams has ever attempted. There are passages of gentle lyric beauty, others of a near-atonal bleakness. The colours of his orchestration reflect both seascape and time of day. There is scarcely any minimalist repetition. Eyes shut, you will hear a master at work.