TAKE three extraordinary American artists, two troubled creative souls and a haunting setting ripe for a musical exorcism.
Result: a remarkable, sombre early triumph for this MIF. Bonus: the Albert Hall emerges from 40 years of crumble and cobwebs to stake its claim as an iconic performing space.
The sequence culminates in meditations upon death and immortality and it is Sellars’ coup in the second half to yoke in one of Bach’s greatest cantatas
When director Peter Sellars, looking like the love child of Nigel Kennedy and a Hobbit, joins bass-baritone Eric Owens and organ show-stopper Cameron Carpenter on stage at the close of Michelangelo Sonnets there is an extraordinary feeling of having passed through the flames of spiritual redemption.
Small scale Sellars offers giant concentration. Almost opera in miniature. Owens, darling of the New York Met, is given a janitor’s outfit and mop and simply sings like a fallen angel, while the playing of pipe organ enfant terrible Carpenter is subtle and seductive across a vast aural palette. Serenity to barely restrained ferocity in the tap of a key. Revelatory.
Soviet composer Shostakovich, towards the end of his troubled life, has found a jagged, melancholy kinship with the Renaissance genius’s stark late poems tackling love, anguish and loss. The flesh, as sculptor he recreated so brilliantly in marble, made weak.
The sequence culminates in meditations upon death and immortality and it is Sellars’ coup in the second half to yoke in one of Bach’s greatest cantatas, “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen”. The quest for forgiveness in the Sonnets finds a natural resolution in the way God welcomes a sinner into the Kingdom of Heaven here. Amid all the musical drama of the final chorale, the sight of the burly Owens lying as if in death is hauntingly poignant.
The Albert Hall has come back from the dead, too. Renovation of the former Wesleyan Chapel (once Brannigans’ neglected upstairs) is months away from completion, yet you rub your eyes to believe the glory of it. The same applies to Michelangelo Sonnets. It’s on again on Friday, July 5 and Sunday, July 7, each performance starting at 9pm. Get down if you can. This is one of those unique MIF treats.
More information on The Michelangelo Sonnets here www.mif.co.uk
More information about Albert Hall here.
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