Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Nine-Minute Opera

Having recently written about the rise in opportunities to hear the music of Samuel Barber, I was delighted to see that the San Francisco Conservatory of Music included his A Hand of Bridge in last night's Opera Workshop Scene Recital. As one might guess from the title, there are four characters; and the opera was performed in its entirety. However, I should qualify that last remark by pointing out that the entire opera lasts nine minutes! Rather than giving the characters the abstract names of North, South, East, and West, they are named Geraldine, Sally, Bill, and David, constituting two married couples who seem to meet for bridge every night after work and dinner. The whole piece is a brief experiment in interior monologue, rather in the fashion of Strange Interlude, which I found a bit peculiar because the very notion of an operatic aria is usually a matter of interior monologue. Still, the jazzy sounds reminded me that Barber could have a lighter touch than I had heard in his piano concerto (or than we all know from his "Adagio for Strings"); so it was nice to see yet another institution joining the ranks of those now recognizing a composer largely neglected in his own lifetime.

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