Opus Osm Minutka – Lost Objects

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In the State Opera’s production of ‘Lost Objects,’ computer animation provides a relentless parade of fascinating symbols supporting the music.

The Prague State Opera steps out of the traditional opera mold to present a rarely-performed, startling and thought-provoking 21st century work.

Opus Osm Minutka (Little Minute):
Five Fast Facts about Lost Objects oratorio

[1] This post-Minimalist oratorio composed by Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, with libretto by poet/writer Deborah Artman, premiered in New York in 2001. In one of its rare performances, it premiered at Prague’s New Stage on Dec 17, 2015, conducted by Petr Kofroň.

[2] Lost Objects relentlessly builds tension with dissonant vocals and simple visuals, a kaleidoscope of things we have lost: “I lost a sock, I lost an umbrella, I lost a sock, I lost an earring,” but continuing “I lost my father,” “I lost the farm,” “I lost my memory… .” The hour-long presentation presents and cycles back to other lost objects, from an old Jewish ritual no longer observed to the passenger pigeon message to the disappeared aviator Amelia Earhart.

scrim

The vocalists behind the scrim, the orchestra in front

[3] Like a traditional Baroque oratorio, it contains 11 sections, featuring a soprano (Jitka Burgetová) and mezzo-sopranos (Jana Horáková Levicová, Lucie Hilscherová); they’re perfectly backed by the Kűhn Mixed Choir and musicians of the National Theatre Orchestra, with driving percussion section and electric guitar. (The original version called for original Baroque instruments in old tuning, and a DJ).

[4] The vocalists are partially obscured by long strips of see-through scrim strips; symbols in flat, traffic-icon style parade, dance, flow, explode, plod, and pulse across the strips in luminescent black and white, with occasional touches of pure red and bilious green. They support the libretto, tie together the sections, and unify the work as a whole. For example, the bull from the religious ritual later reappears in connection with a large backyard grill; and also somehow morphs into a polar bear balanced on the tip of a tiny iceberg: think about those connections.

[5] The score, combining Baroque strings and electric guitar in the same work, builds to a driving fury; the vocalists all attain the same level of strength, vitality and quality; musically, it is a fine performance. To help with the meaning, the State Opera provides an excellent paper program in both Czech and English. It includes the libretto, but also interesting, helpful background information on each section, as well as on the original creative team known as Bang on a Can.

The next presentations of Lost Objects are Jan 14 and 24, 2016 at 8 pm at The New Stage.

– Mary Matz, Opus Osm editor

Photo Credits: The State Opera

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