Anybody seen the new Met production of Satyagraha?

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3 Responses to “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”
  1. Seth Gordon says:

    Saw it last night. Glass was there – in fact, I almost knocked him over in the lobby when he was barreling around chatting on his cell, oblivious to his surroundings. Admittedly I was slightly distracted myself, by his date, who looked to be just under half his age and just under twice his height.

    Oh, yeah, the production… The sets were beautiful, yet not overly lavish to the point of distraction. The staging and puppetry were spectacular – and fairly low-tech, which I found appropriate to the subject matter. Performance-wise, it was far better than the old recording, which I’ve always found somewhat sterile. The singers were all very good – Richard Croft, in particular, was tremendous.

    It’s hard to really judge them in terms of “acting” since, whatever the libretto may say on paper, there aren’t really “characters” or a narrative – just people dressed up like folks Gandhi knew singing passages from the Bhagavad Gita, wandering around the stage in tableaus representing events in his life. But as far as the singing went, they were all quite strong. I don’t know if it was simply that after 3 hours I had fallen into a Zen-like (mmm… okay, Moksha-like) state, but the sextet in the last act and final solo were absolutely sublime.

    Sadly, my group was surrounded by idiots. In both the second and third acts we had to “shush” people in front of and to the side of us – the same people both times. And someone who we couldn’t quite place, during the quiet, pensive minutes that open Act III, thought it the perfect time to eat chips from a cellophane bag. Crinkle crinkle crinkle crunch. They’re lucky we couldn’t see them, or they might have found their fucking face crinkle crinkle crinkle crunched.

    Anyhoo… the only problems I had, as far as what went on on stage, were the problems I’ve always had with the work itself – namely, I think the the first two acts both start strong and then lose their groove about halfway through. Act III, on the other hand, is as good as anything Glass has written… though I’ve never been happy with the last chord. I think this is a case where the sterotypical “everything suddenly stops” Glass ending would have worked better than what I find an out-of-character resolution in the final 10 seconds.

    Personally, I think Akhnaten would have been the better choice for the slam-bang woo-hoo Met treatment, though I may be biased since that’s my favorite of the trilogy – and I’m a bit disappointed that what with the Met doing Satyagraha and the NYCO doing Einstein, no one’s doing that one. But I can see how Satyagraha might have looked better from a marketing perspective. It certainly worked – the place was mobbed. Beyond mobbed – there were ticketless people wandering around outside with glazed looks in their eyes begging for someone to sell them one, some even going so far as to wear signs. Alas, no one was selling doses in the parking lot, nor were there any vintage VW Buses in sight.

    Good as it was, though, it did not make me want to stand up for peace. In truth, after 3.5 hours, the only thing it made me want to stand up for was to stretch my back. And maybe a couple overpriced margaritas at Rosa Mexicano.

  2. Steve Layton says:

    Well, our own Elodie Lauten was there & gave her impressions on her blog:

    http://www.sequenza21.com/2008/04/satyagraha-or-force-of-truth.html

    I saw it in the 80s in Seattle, one of the few things I bit the bullet for and coughed up the big money to sit in the center-main floor for. It was beautiful and strong then, and I don’t see much reason to think differently today.

    The only complaint I’ve have with the piece is the tendency for scenes (heck, for all of Glass, period) to unfold predictably in the old tried-and-true “wedge” form: starting simply enough, and gradually piling on the lines, voices and chorus. Each scene is lovely in itself, but repeating the formula so often creates a slight numbing effect that robs some power from each succeeding crescendo.

  3. zeno says:

    Haven’t seen it, but heard it broadcast on Saturday. Critic and music writer Tim Page was right, I believe, for maintaining all these years that one shouldn’t judge the work on the initial, click-track aided CBS recording.

    From an aural point of view, the MET performance appeared wonderfully and expressively cast, the orchestra sounded absolutely wonderful, and the compositional changes to the figuration and orchestration of the haunting, final aria were fascinating [and a little complex]. I don’t know why the MET didn’t choose to video broadcast and record in HD this production.

    Peter Gelb’s and his team’s collaboration with London and British theater artists seems to be bringing theatrical — as as well as the earlier visual [for which James Levine’s earlier tenure since 1974 was renowned]–excitement to the MET Opera.

    [Now if only I could decide between springing for Satyagraha or The Minotaur…. Damn Heathrow 5.]

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