Sunday, June 04, 2006
I Left My Computer Due to Early Taymor
"Using projections, puppetry, masks and Goldenthal's richly layered and highly emotional score, Taymor creates an enthralling visual landscape. In this world of kings, queens, storytellers and warriors, Taymor and her co-librettist, J.D. McClatchy, present a Grendel that is a quintessentialy modern anti-hero. With language ranging from medieval to modern, Grendel serves as a gripping theatrical allegory of the human struggle."
Wonderful Husband Himself, splurged on fun special 10th anniversary gifts for us this weekend, the centerpiece of which were non-nosebleed (!) seats at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a NEW! World Premiere opera by Julie Taymor. We are huge admirers of her gift for creative theatrical interpretations of meaty, meaningful stories. This time, Grendel, an original score by her love, Elliot Goldenthal, and her own libretto (they share a life-long fascination with the book by the late professor, John Gardner which in turn was based on the classic old English poem entitled, Beowulf. (I knew nothing of it before yesterday, we went to a lecture at the center before the performance that thankfully gave it all context.) The story itself was rife with juicy notions of what it is to be human as told from an ancient, terrible Monster's point of view. Having him around destroying us defines us, etc.
One of the most exciting aspects for me was that Michael Curry, technical engineer and essential ingredient for Julie's vision to be fully realized, in my opinion, had co-designed and contributed his own gifts to this project. For me, when these two get together, Julie's entree into high levels of literary culture and expressive conceptualizations, Micheal's ability to reach into her mind/vision and bring it out to fruition without losing a drop of it's artistic eloquence, it is one of the most powerful pairings possible. I'm thinking especially of the half-animal, half-flora, "unformed" ten foot creatures that wander as if in a dream across the stage at one point. I can't comment on the music (as I don't relate to music in general) except to say that I thought the visuals and the music were perfectly matched in terms of texture and mood, both primitive, discordant, and of the period in motif.
Aside for some, in our opinion, major set issues from the usually brilliant George Tsypin. (It felt to me as though they had to throw relatively unfinished-looking replacements of their biggest set pieces up after computer glitches had caused the opening to be postponed--though I could be totally wrong about that.) It was as if the set were left largely blank, which unless the bareness deliberate, didn't match the fully-realized puppets and creatures to me. I've been SPOILED by the 1992 Taymor/Curry/Tsypin's Oedipus' set which was much more of a work of art unto itself than this. With that you saw every penny of the millions well used. I suspect if this production opens as planned in New York next month, it will look more at home. (they're calling LA an out-of-town try out!) If not then, perhaps when and if Julie makes Grendel into a film.
There were several moments that blew my mind as we've come to expect from Julie. There was a particular moment at the end of Act 1, when she enhanced dramatic crescendo of the story with modern artful films projected onto black proscenium scrim. It was a moment of the story, the music, the visuals, the multi-dimensionality of the performers on stage and on film coming together creating an experience that transcended mere theater. Brava to Ms. Taymor. There were several scenes that achieved that magic.
Thank you for indulging me in a review. Believe you me, I could go on even more than I have here, but please allow me to attach a personal note. Happy Anniversary, Dear. Thank you so much for grabbing the rare opportunity of a worthwhile way to celebrate our life.
For those interested, another write up here from the Press Telegram; http://www.presstelegram.com/entertainment/ci_3863769