07 Jan 2009
Plumbing the Exquisite Psychic Depths of Robert Ashley
Raphaela Papadakis seems to like ‘playing with fire’. After her acclaimed performance as the put-upon maid, Anna, in Independent Opera’s production of Šimon Voseček’s Beidermann and the Arsonists at Sadler’s Wells last year, she is currently rehearsing for the premiere this week of And London Burned, a new opera by Matt Rogers which has been commissioned by Temple Music Foundation to commemorate the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London.
By Ross Simonini [Village Voice, 7 January 2009]
In the mid-’70s, Michigan-born composer Robert Ashley discovered a rare commodity in the art world: a niche. Lamenting that his homeland lacked the rich operatic tradition of Europe, he sought to invent a distinctly American art form, mixing dense sound environments and amorphous narration to create something he called “opera-for-television” (with the “television” part mostly referring to the works’ division into 30-minute “episodes”). He clearly wasn’t courting a mass-media audience, though: In early efforts like Music With Roots in the Aether and Perfect Lives, the black humor of the avant-garde is on full display, with chants about “geriatric love” and recipes for Pear Jello Salad flashing across the screen.