Astronomy meets opera in Johannes Kepler: The Opera
Phillip Glass is a composer I more appreciate than love, the minimalist style of music he writes in is very important to the development of music, and Glass has written some hauntingly beautiful music for film and opera, though sometimes it can lack variety and momentum.
Like The Perfect American was for Walt Disney (also on DVD in a very good production from 2013), Kepler tells of the life of astronomer Johannes Kepler, and my perception of Kepler is pretty much the same musically but with a more imaginative and dramatically compelling story and a truly fascinating libretto that makes one really interested in Kepler and astronomy, remarkable for an opera that's more a portrait opera than a narrative drama.
This is a wonderful production of the opera, with its only criticism being the odd use of radio mikes, not sound-wise but where they're situated. Was the singers looking like they had antennas look the intention? It's a visually striking production, dark but incredibly atmospheric, and the staging is some of the most imaginative of any production of Phillip Glass' work, there are very few opera productions if any with staging like it and it never stops moving or rotating without feeling repetitive, matching the subject matter more than appropriately. The production also looks good on DVD, with the video directing managing to enhance the effect of the staging and the picture and sound are sharp and clear, of very good quality.
Musically, there's nothing to complain about. The orchestral playing is both powerful and nuanced with wide ranges of orchestral colour and high in musicianship and energy. The chorus, essential in this opera and any Glass opera really, are superb in every way, the voices sound fantastic and they manage to make their constant movements and rotating interesting and varied. Dennis Russell Davies' expertise in Glass shows, he is a very sympathetic conductor while always alive to nuance and the stage drama. The performance Martin Achrainer in the title role is hugely impressive, and outstanding even at his best, his voice is beautiful, which he uses very expressively and with great eloquence, while he also acts always with enormous commanding dignity. The six singers representing the planets sing splendidly and give their respective roles strong personalities.
Overall, wonderful performance of an interesting opera. 9.5/10 Bethany Cox
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