Brief Notes From BAM’s Next Wave Festival

Through January, the Brooklyn Academy Of Music  is holding their annual Next Wave Festival. Over the past few weeks, I’ve gone to a number of performances there; some thoughts on three of them follow.

love fail
In which composer David Lang collaborates with the vocal group Anonymous 4 for a kind of retelling of the story of Tristan and Isolde. I had interviewed Lang about the piece, which gave me a sense of some of the thought behind its genesis. Musically it was impressive, contrasting medieval texts with wryer, epigraph-like passages from the work of Lydia Davis. Less successful was the video component: the actors whose faces were projected were often required to stand still, and the results felt more awkward than anything. (Dean & Britta’s performances to Andy Warhol’s screen tests came to mind as a more successful version of a similar visual concept — less overtly dramatic, but more evocative.) Still, Anonymous 4’s sacred delivery of Lydia Davis’s prose isn’t something one soon forgets

Faust: A Love Story
An aged actor, now confined to a nursing home, finds himself mourning his lost youth — and the fact that the one role that eluded him: Faust. And then he finds himself tempted into selling his soul, and a decidedly knowing retelling of an old story plays out. This production, from Iceland’s Vesturport Theatre, involved acrobatics along with verbal jousting. Not surprisingly, it was all very stylized, but the cast brought more than a little charm to the proceedings, and there was more than a little pathos wrung from multiple versions of “Last Christmas.” And a scene of aerial courtship set to Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s “Sorya Market” made for a beautiful moment of theater.

Michael Gordon’s Timber found six percussionists gathered around a circle of 2x4s; over the hour that followed, rhythms and overtones filled the room. At one point, I was tempted to dub it “Drumming for goths,” but that wouldn’t be fair — there was an unexpected beauty to the piece in places, even as the constant drumming created a dense, sometimes ominous sound. It didn’t hurt that the new Fishman Space at BAM Fisher was a fantastic venue: open and clear-sounding and intimate.

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