17 Nov 2004
WSJ Reviews Le Grande Macabre and The Flying Dutchman at the SFO
Waiting for the End of the World By HEIDI WALESON [WSJ] November 17, 2004 San Francisco Many listeners know Gyorgy Ligeti from the creepily futuristic orchestral music in the soundtrack of the 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” His opera “Le Grand Macabre” (1978, revised in 1996), given its American premiere this month by the San Francisco Opera, is a thoroughly different creature, yet it is just as much an artifact of its time. Though carefully crafted and full of compositional references, the score is mostly an elbow-in-the-ribs accompaniment to a nihilistic black comedy. Beginning with an opening fanfare for car horns that sounds like Harpo Marx multiplied and continuing with a parody of the “Dies Irae,” the prophecy of the Day of Judgment, the opera is a soulless and often scatological joke.