Satyagraha at the Met
Karita Mattila at SF Performances

Shostakovich's Prologue to Orango

Shostakovich-orango* Notes *
Over the weekend Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Los Angeles Philharmonic in the world premiere of Shostakovich's Prologue to Orango. The piece was orchestrated by Gerard McBurney, based on surviving piano sketches. There was relatively little singing in the 40 minutes of music, as the 11 parts included an overture and three dances. Some of the singers were difficult to hear. The Entertainer, bass-baritone Ryan McKinny, blended into the sound of the large orchestra. Timur Bekbosunov (Paul Mâche) sang to Salonen, instead of to us. While humorous, this did not serve the music well. Yulia Van Doren was convincing as Susanna, and her vibrato seemed appropriate and controlled. Michael Fabiano sounded sweet and sufficiently loud as the Zoologist. Eugene Brancoveanu gave a committed performance in the title role. Though he sang rather little, it was obvious how beautiful his voice is.

The concepts behind Peter Sellars' staging looked like they had been pulled together in less than five minutes. We were shown images of Occupy Wall Street, a Rhesus monkey with pins in its skull, fighter planes, citrus fruits, and so on and so forth. Members of the chorus (the Los Angeles Master Chorale) were dressed in orange, disregarding the fact that the words orange and orangutan are not related. The fruit (and color) are from Sanskrit via Arabic and the first half of the animal name comes from Malay for "man." There were moments of the production that were interesting, especially when Orango jumps from his pedestal and attacks Susanna, who was seated in the first row of the Orchestra Level. Overall the proceedings were not cohesive, and a concert version of the work would have been less insulting to the intelligence of even this audience.

The second half of the evening was devoted to Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4. Salonen made sharp distinctions between the parts of the piece, but kept the music moving. The differences in tempi and volume were all clear. The orchestra did sound a bit muddy, but there were no egregious errors. The symphony ended gorgeously, melting into silence.

* Tattling * 
The audience in the terrace was appallingly ill-behaved. Of 10 people in our immediate vicinity, 9 spoke during the music. More than one person fell asleep during the second piece. My companion tapped the knee of someone snoring in Row P to wake him up, and the offending person was irate, asking the person with him repeatedly if he had been making noise. After the performance there was rather ridiculous confrontation between awakener and woken.