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Published: Thu, 11 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2018 10:47:13 GMT


Vocal Philologies: Written on Skin and the Troubadours

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Parchment or slate were precious materials to the medieval scholar—or composer—and they were used repeatedly for successive sketching. Today, many centuries later, surviving manuscripts appear chaotic, with a surface complexity almost resembling organic growth, although their straight lines reveal they are man-made. In deciphering these mysterious objects one can unravel the sequence of layers and trace back to the initial text.  —George Benjamin, program note to Palimpsests for Orchestra (1998−2002)11

How Many Voices Can She Have? Destabilizing Desire and Identification in American Lulu

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Olga Neuwirth’s American Lulu reinterprets Alban Berg’s Lulu against the backdrop of the American civil rights movement. White European characters are recast as African Americans, and the drama is interspersed with spoken excerpts from the writings of Martin Luther King. Even more radical, perhaps, are the gender politics of Neuwirth’s revision—and, specifically, its approach to the character of Countess Geschwitz, Lulu’s steadfast companion and would-be lesbian lover. In Berg’s opera, Geschwitz’s unrequited love can easily seem peripheral to the larger plot. Neuwirth, however, seizes on this relationship. Geschwitz—now “Eleanor,” a Blues singer—emerges as the hero, choosing a path of moral good (and evading her original fate at the hands of Jack the Ripper), while Lulu herself remains mired in a sexualized subservience to men. American Lulu premiered at Berlin’s Komische Oper in 2012, where it was dubbed a “Jazzy BlackPower Bergwerk.” Subsequent performances have taken place at the Bregenz Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, and London’s Young Vic, yet it has also been met with mixed reviews, leaving some listeners baffled by the meaning of its transformations.11