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Alexandra

Trisha Brown's Winterreise

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Interesting preview in The Guardian. (The piece comes to the Barbicon September 16th)

All singing, all dancing

Then again, this isn't the first time Brown and Keenlyside have worked together. In 1998 Brown was invited to stage Monteverdi's Orfeo, for the Th├ętre de la Monnaie in Brussels. Keenlyside was offered the title role - and jumped at the opportunity. "At the time, I didn't even know who Trisha Brown was," he says. "I didn't know anything about the dance world and still don't. But I like using my muscles, my body. So I thought, 'Well, this will be fun,' and I just threw myself in at the deep end." At their first meeting, they immediately hit it off, with Brown being particularly impressed by Keenlyside's athletic background and by his single-mindedness: "I met him in an office and when he was leaving, he said: 'Make me work.' That is a gift to me. That means that I can really make demands on this guy."

Brown's intention with Orfeo was to invigorate what she saw as a rather staid art-form: "I couldn't stand the lack of energy on the opera stage." In the rehearsal room, however, she was faced with a problem: how to overcome the lumbering, self-conscious physical inadequacies of the cast of singers. "I would say that a lot of those people didn't know that they had a body below their lungs," she says.

Even Keenlyside found the process, in which Brown created sleek, sculptural hieroglyphics on her own dancers and transferred them to the cast, excruciatingly difficult. "I thought that I'd be able to cope with it whatever it is. I was strong and I was quick and I could jump. But when it came to it, there was absolutely not the simplest thing that the dancers did that I could do."

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I saw WINTEREISSE twice: first in December 2002 as part of Lincoln Center's Great Performances, and last month at Mostly Mozart. Both performances were at the John Jay College concert hall, which is down the street from Lincoln Center.

I don't think there are many opera singers who'd be up to singing full voice and performing "choeorgraphic movement" at the same time. I've gushed in a previous "opera" thread that Mr. Keenlyside looks like a movie star, but, no exaggeration, he moves like a trained dancer. At a post-performance audience discussion with Ms. Brown following the July performance, he claims to have had no previous dance training until he first worked with Ms. Brown in the late 1990's. Those of us who have been taking classes far longer should be move so naturally.:yes: His voice is a high lyric baritone, which can be heard to full advantage on the DG Theielemann/Deutsche Oper Berlin recording of CARMINA BURANA. The GUARDIAN article on wrong on one point...he hasn't sung at the Met in several seasons. He's an acclalimed Giovanni and Prince Andrei, but the powers-that-be couldn't care less.

Ms. Brown dosen't deviate from the WINTEREISSE song cylcle. The protagonist painfully spirals from rejection, to depression, suicide, and beyond the grave. Three dancers partner Mr. Keenlyside, and he does the same in turn. WINTEREISSE's basic structure remained the same at both viewings, but some moments were improvised or spontaneous.

British posters should give WINTEREISSE a chance. It's far from your average dance or liederabend performance.

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Thanks very much for that, Patricia. I wish I'd seen that!

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People loved Winterreise, or they hated it. Even if they hated it, they loved Keenleyside, who in my opinion is far better suited to it than to the Orfeo. He reminded me a little of Hakan Hagegaard, whose name I am mis-spelling and someone will please correct, but not of such an underlyingly cheerful-seeming nature. The accompanist, whose name I have forgotton (shameful of me) was really wonderful. I felt I would have enjoyed the evening just as much if the singer had been wearing formal clothing and standing in front of the piano, but I am not mad for mixing up dance and other genres. (I understand that opera is all genres, but lieder?) In a sense, the Trisha Brown is reductionist--if you close your eyes and listen to the music, a given song is larger and more affecting to me than it is when experienced while watching her pin it down in specific and sometimes to me arch-seeming imagery. Still, it is well worth seeing, and I am happy I had the chance. (I have been reading Angela Thirkell for two weeks, and my writing tells the tale, I suppose.)

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