[NOTE: This review was written in January 2021 as part of my 2010-2019 decade-in-review post.]

I saw a triple bill of one-woman operas at the New York City Opera in April 2011. It was called *Monodramas* and it was designed and directed by Michael Counts and conducted by George Manahan.

The first work was *La Machine de l’Être* by John Zorn. I loved it, though I had the feeling it was a little too super modern for much of the audience. Here’s a performance of one of the movements, performed by the woman who did it at the NYCO, Anu Komsi:

Gripping, am I right?

 

The second piece was the only one I had heard before, Schoenberg’s *Erwartung.* It was performed by Kara Shay Thomson and honestly didn’t make much of an impact on me.

 

The third and final piece was the highlight of the program, *Neither,* with music by Morton Feldman and text by Samuel Beckett. It was a commission from the Rome Opera in 1977. Feldman approached Beckett about writing the libretto and Beckett said, “I actually hate opera.” Feldman said, “Me too1” and they knew that they were at the start of a wonderful collaboration. The referred to the piece not as an opera but as a “monodrama” or an “anti-opera.”

Whatever, it’s a sung piece being presented on a stage, let’s go ahead and call it an opera. It was performed by Cynthia Sieden, who seemed to have no trouble with the relentlessly high tessitura. I want to give special kudos to the orchestra, they really played the hell out of it. And designer/director Michael Counts didn’t try to paste some kind of story or drama onto the experience, he just put some glittering and fascinating images on the stage, and that was enough for me.

 

Here's a recording on YouTube. I have no idea what the image they chose has to do with the opera...