My Year of Opera: On This Planet

Based on a recommendation, I watched Nordentoft’s one-man opera On This Planet. I wasn’t familiar with Nordentoft’s work before and I hadn’t heard of this but hey, it was only an hour long, so why not? I’ve watched longer things for worse reasons…

All in all, I enjoyed it, but found it a little stiff. The basic idea seems to be a “life flashing in front of your eyes before you die” and, while I thought that framing was very affective I thought some of the imagery and libretto to be a bit too obvious and overt, I suppose. It seemed like Nordentoft went to the first metaphor that came to mind and stayed there. Not that that is always a problem, common tropes and patterns exist because they work, but I felt myself wanting something a bit more.

Musically, the piece was fairly eclectic with some very expressionistic touches but mostly it lived in a tonal/pop-influenced box. I think an audience who is used to seeing things like Company would find this opera weird yet accessible. For me, it kind of scratched the surface of being interesting without really doing anything I hadn’t seen before. It was an enjoyable experience but not one I’m ready to rush out and say “OMG! Everyone must see this!” It does make for an approachable piece for composers interested in “challenging what opera is” (but most people who say that are only familiar with what they think 19th century opera is) but I’d steer such folks to the works of Mikel Rouse, David T. Little, and Missy Mazzoli first.

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