Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pre-Emptive Review: Robert Ashley's CONCRETE

It's that time of year again. Robert Ashley has completed a new opera, or rather, he has recycled his "maverick" ideas for the twenty-fourth time in as many years. I plan to attend the opera Wednesday, January 17th, at LaMaMa theater in New York City. Meanwhile, here is a pre-emptive review unbiased by the experience of having already seen the production.

I will forego discussing the libretto as its author (Mr. Ashley himself) is a composer, not a writer. Suffice it to say, I have not read the libretto nor could I understand most of the words as they were delivered in a VERY non-operatic fashion. Mr. Ashley does not believe in super-titles, or subtitles, but for those composers who are very hard of hearing, like me, a lack of visible text is just about as anti-libretto as any opera can be!

Musically, Mr. Ashley has been exploring the hip-hop computer program called "Live." Ironically, the computer program does not generate sounds in real time, but rather allows the operator to decide when to "press go," as it were, for each new section. Mr. Ashley claims to be the oldest person using "Live," but my colleague, Dr. Held Projansky, was using the "limited edition" version of the program before his death at the age of 99. Mr. Ashley may want to read the instruction manual that comes with "Live" as it appears he is using only the "demo" track which automatically loads the first time the program is used.

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Ashley can compose an opera appropriate for a position in the operatic canon. Until he does so, we will have to settle for version 24.0 of his annual dog and pony show.