Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Jim Jarmusch Wants You to See These Monodramas!

City Opera is putting forward an evening of contemporary, one-act "monodramas." It opens this Friday and runs through April 8th. The lineup is three works: one each by John Zorn, Arnold Schoenberg and Morton Feldman. Unsurprisingly or possibly crazily for something so rare and cool, dozens of $12 seats remain, as do a handful of $25 spots. Monodrama, you need not have previously known, means just one person singing in each piece.

And Jim Jarmusch has co-signed the event by declaring himself way into both composer Morton Feldman, as well as his librettist—the one and only Samuel Beckett. The Beckett-love doesn't surprise me, but Jarmusch's being a fan of Feldman—particularly the six-hour-long String Quartet No. 2—wasn't immediately intuitive until I remembered: oh yeah, the director of Down By Law likes himself some deliberate pacing also.

Many of Feldman's works are far too, uh, long, to come across well in a single YouTube video (or to be ideally experienced by clicking through 5 or 6 YouTubes to get the full performance). But the "Durations" miniatures are nice. Here's one:

And this page offers more background than does Jarmusch's video, with regard to the working method employed by two weirdo geniuses who barely knew one other.

Last week, John Zorn told us that his monodramatic one-act is set to feature "70 people on stage, wild costumes, people flying thru the air, pyrotechnics, animations of [Antonin] Artaud drawings, and the AMAZING voice of Finnish soprano, Anu Komsi." So yeah, I'll be going to this performance multiple times. Come along!

Seth Colter Walls is The Awl's chief correspondent for the difficult arts. He has a Tumblr and a dayjob both!

14 Comments / Post A Comment

TJ Pallas (#9,174)

I'm the projections programmer, and I can tell you first-hand all three acts are definitely worth multiple sit-throughs. And don't even get me started on how sexy Michael Count's idea of an "opera set" is.

katiechasm (#163)

Monodrama, a portmanteau of monotony + drama.

Hmm. Clever, and yet sorta an easy jab, no? (Also: tell it to Thespis.)

macartney (#1,889)

I'm very excited about Monodramas and will be there Friday night in the cheap seats. George Steel sold me on it in his recent interview with Opera News:

"I think it would be foolish not to take risks under these conditions," he insists. "New York City Opera must be the world's leader in doing this kind of work. That's when we thrive and survive. To sort of just do more operas is not going to bring in new audiences and new excitement. It's our job to move opera back to the center of the culture. We're not saying, 'If you like opera, you'll like this.' We're saying, 'If you like music and art and performance and theater and dance — all of those things, together — come see this show.' Monodramas has become a kind of spearhead here for a new model of producing opera — to bring artists together from different disciplines and make something fresh, working with new repertoire by new composers — music that demands a high level of virtuosity from the orchestra and the singers. Of all the opera companies in the world, New York City Opera is the one that should be doing exactly this."

Right on, etc. The question, really, is how long Steel will be allowed to get away with such utterly sensible and long-overdue shenanigans when dozens of cheap seats remain unclaimed at risky openings.

macartney (#1,889)

Valid point, and hopefully the new Directors who arrived with new cash will have patience (and deep enough pockets) to stick it out. Regarding the cheap seats, until A Quiet Place, I had no idea they offered $12 tickets. And since then, every single person I've told about them had been in the dark as well. While the company is doing great things with YouTube and has a fairly solid online presence, I wonder how well they are doing with outreach to new audiences, ie ones who don't seek out their various platforms. (In that vein, you continue to do a yeoman's job here at the Awl, SCW!)

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Moondramas? Don't tell Balk

Seriously considering!


Also: to those (skeptics?) who were deleting their own comments up above (and to those who suspect that monodramas are by nature monotonous), I say: if y'all take a $12 risk, come see this, and hate it — I will bear your collective wrath here in the comments. You can just take your $12 worth of anger and 2.5 hours of wasted time ALL THE WAY OUT on me. Deal?

macartney (#1,889)

If Monodramas is George Steel's way of "bring[ing] in new audiences" and "mov[ing] opera back to the center of culture", he and I disagree on what those phrases mean.

I'm glad I went, and I will most likely go again (at least once more), but I'm also currently deciding if I:

-hated it
-Hated It, or


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