A Six-Hour Opera Goes On for One Euphoric Night Only

Many years ago, when composer Dylan Mattingly was working on a new project, he wrote to his collaborator Thomas Bertscherer that “really long is better than just long.” I understand very well,” he said.

Mattingly followed his own advice, and some more. First envisioned by him and Bartscherer 11 years ago, the idiosyncratic, tender, euphoric, and hypnotic opera Stranger Love eventually grew to six hours, where people realized what they were doing. I was well past the point where I started saying it was impossible to make a .

“We were working on it thinking it would never happen because could it happen?” Mattingly, 32, said in a recent interview.

Some of the pieces were performed in concert.But for the first time on Saturday, and 1 performance only — All performances will take place at Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which has adopted “Stranger Love” as one of its trademark pie-in-the-sky presentations are doing.

“Young, up-and-coming artists with big ideas deserve a place to see their work,” said Chad Smith, chief executive of the Philharmonic Orchestra. “If big institutions don’t support big business, why are we here?”

“Stranger Love,” directed by Liliana Blaine-Cruise and performed by Contemporary Us, an ensemble Mattingly founded with David Bloom as an undergraduate at Bard College, tells a love story of sorts, Not exactly Puccini. Largely abstract and very serious, slowly expanding and contracting into a cosmic sphere, this work offers a higher experience than a concrete plot.

“The atmosphere of this song is special,” said composer John Adams, Mattingly’s longtime friend and mentor. “I think the length is part of its spirituality, what can I say? — its mental propulsion.”

“Stranger Love” is reminiscent of two other operas, those of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson, that last for hours in a meditative ecstasy that seems to stop time. “Einstein on the Beach” and Olivier Messiaen “Saint-Francois Dacise” That sensibility was shaped by the CD. Performed by the Tahitian Choir“It’s this wonderful, polyphonic, joyful sound,” he said, “that moves about itself, congealing and separating.” early minimalism in glass It’s also present in the score’s vast expanse of shifting harmonies and repeating rhythms.

The three pianos, each in slightly different tunings, give some of the music an enchanting honky-tonk feel, sometimes blaring and reminiscent of gamelan, and open your ears to the Pacific Ocean. associated with the spirit of Harry Partch and Lou Harrison.

There is a green ripe part of Messiaen “Turangalila Symphony” and the scent that rises Debussy.and a stylized approach to the characters and echoes of the seemingly simple, sometimes almost childish sound world of Meredith Monk’s wordless opera. “Atlas” Mattingly said he listened to the song (literally) every night for a year before he started “Stranger Love.”

His work seems to float beyond the topical themes often found in new music. “It doesn’t tell you who to vote for or where to stand on issues,” said Bert Scherer. “But it asks us to imagine a world that might not be.”

“I also think devotion to joy is an interesting politics,” Braincruise said. “Dedication to fighting for the beauty of life, for people to see and appreciate it. let’s go.”

Bartscherer’s preliminary text contains references to Ankerson, Octavio Paz, Matthew Arnold, and others. Writer, translator and scholar, he was one of Mattingley’s first professors at Bard College and became an instant fan of contemporary arts after founding Contemporaryus in 2010. Bert Scherrer, who had quit one of his group’s concerts, had a vague idea of ​​a musical-dramatic work. In the cycle of the four seasons, two love voices develop a relationship, facing and resolving symbolic conflicts from within and without.

He shared this idea with Mattingley, who had been composing since the age of six but wanted to write vocal music. Exchanging materials, they immediately set off for the race. They talk of “stranger love” as something that already exists fully in some realm and needs to be discovered or guided rather than consciously created.

“It was there, somewhere,” Bert Scherrer said. “And Dylan’s antenna was somehow listening to it.”

At some point, they abandoned trying to keep the project traditionally manageable in length, opting instead for the grandeur Mattingly loved in The Lord of the Rings and Battlestar Galactica. We adopted something like world building. Mattingly had a vision when he visited Point Reyes on the California coast in 2014. The already expansive score he and Bert Scherrer were working on was just the first act.

In this new conception, two more acts follow, in which the voices fade away, expanding the scope of the opera to include first the human lovers beyond the first pair, and then the expanding universe. We will expand.

Even considering Mr. Mattingly’s single-minded focus, it took years to complete. “Sometimes you have students and you talk to them, and it takes two years to realize that what you’re talking about is ingrained in their daily lives,” said Mattingly during his graduate studies at Yale. One of his teachers, composer David Lang, said: “But he made music in such a fluid and committed way that everything we were talking about immediately showed up in his work.”

Mattingly and Bert Scherer briefly considered producing “Stranger Love” themselves, perhaps in an airplane hangar, but it was clear that without an organized partner the costs would be prohibitive. . Emails from arts groups were often ignored. Some respondents said they couldn’t say “yes” without seeing it first.

A nearly four-hour Act One concert performance put on by Beth Morrison and Prototype Festival 2018 proved the material’s feasibility, at least for its creators. But when Adams encouraged Smith of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra to see the score, and Mattingly began sending him recorded clips, the long-finished “Stranger Love” was released from the Philharmonic after the fact. It was performed at the request. manufacturing.

Blaine-Cruise said her staging aimed to be “ultra-simple and super-magnificent”, with projections (designed by Hannah Wasileski) that evoke the natural world and beyond. Chris Emile’s choreography is inspired by the cyclical movements of planets and seasons.

“Chris as a choreographer is someone who uses the spirit, not frivolity or frivolity,” Blaine-Cruise said. “All his physical work is in some way a possession level. I think that there.”

Will “Stranger Love” Survive Beyond Saturday? Mr. Mattingly dreamed of doing it at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. But meanwhile, he and Bert Scherer are already working on another project. They claim to be shorter, but the title “History of Life” doesn’t give any sense that their scope has gotten any less ambitious.

Adams said, “I expressed concern that Dylan was producing a body of work that was always difficult to produce. And I felt like a terrible old father, ‘Are you going to find a job? ?” He is willing to devote himself to his art and live a very simple life. “

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