The Sounds and Music of Open Space
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Blog entry by Jairo Geronymo, pianist, Nurnberg and Berlin, Germany
Two weeks ago, I saw a show in Berlin by a group called ‘Chamäleon’ The show itself was called ‘Soap’. One of my concert companions was a ten year-old boy. This show seemed the perfect choice for a mind immersed in Nintendo and Disney.
The show mixed acrobatics, special effects, comedy, skin, and hardcore arias by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Wolf. Unusual.
The scenery consisted of bathtubs used as a base for acrobatics. The highest bathtub functioned as the throne of a very good soprano wearing a bathing suit. The pairings were a delightful surprise: Wolf with contortions, Schubert with fabric swaths holding muscular bodies, Mozart with soap bubbles.
At the moment, the streets of Berlin are plastered with advertisements for the "Blue Man Group". In Las Vegas, it is difficult to score tickets for ‘Cirque du Soleil’ or ‘Le Reve’. All these spectacles mix dance, acrobatics, elaborate set design, and music.
Yet these elements also evoke the main ingredients of French Grand Opera. Classical ballets have merged with circus acrobatics. Operas in the 18th century used flowing blue fabric to make ocean waves; now , we have laser shows. Everything is different. Everything is the same.
So how has the music changed?
Is this change just a question of Gregorian Chant with digital sounds, African drums with extra reverberation and musical pyrotechnics? No.
Experiences appealing to many senses remain a successful recipe for audience engagement. Disney knows this. Bollywood knows this. Can we then anticipate a resurgence of French grand opera for the masses? Questionable--but opera will always attract an audience.
I prefer to think that in our multi-cultural global society, there is space for the New York Phillarmonic playing music from Star Wars and Mozart paired with soap bubbles.