Waiting for the headache

Waiting for the Barbarians, an opera based on a work by J. M. Coetzee, with music by Philip Glass, is attracting worldwide attention. The Austin Lyric Opera is performing this on split weekends, Friday and Sunday this past week, and Saturday and Monday, January 27 and 29. Coetzee conducted his doctoral work here in Austin and mentions Austin and the Ransom Center from time to time in the writing he does for various periodicals.

Koyaanisqatsi at one time seemed to play continuously here in Austin, with an accompanying permanent preview. I once heard some of this Glass-composed music when I had a headache and I’ve never forgotten the relentless throb, throb, throb, which doesn’t make for eager anticipation of Waiting for the Barbarians.

The hanging figures that so captivated the reviewer for the local daily (she likes it that they “levitate up and down”) do not find so much favor in today’s NYT review (“In Austin, Echoes of a Distant War in an Opera’s American Premiere,” byline Steve Smith; log-in may be required): “Mummified mannequins dangling above the set, illuminated from within, were a heavy-handed touch.” The NYT reviewer does love the singing and the conducting.

Before there was Austin Lyric Opera, there were day-long bus trips leaving before dawn from the Villa Capri near campus and returning after sunset, heading to Dallas or to Houston to hear opera performances. Joe McClain and the wonderful Dr. Walter Ducloux were among those who went on these trips and these two were later co-founders of ALO. The nucleus of the ALO membership comes from those who endured those grueling bus rides. Remembering the early days, Philip Glass or not, and however unenthusiastically, I’ll be checking out WFTB. Tickets are still available.

3 Comments so far

  1. A Glass Newbie (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 10:26 am

    I think you will be able to look forward to Waiting for the Barbarians… not really much throb, throb, thob, except where it is quite appropriate to the story. I am relatively new to Philip Glass’s work and to contemporary opera, but I found “Waiting” spectacular breath-taking musically, visually, and emotionally.


  2. Rantor (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 10:36 am

    I’m very happy to read your account. Some reviewers mention arpeggios. I’ve just never liked the repetitive pulsating effects so often employed by PG. If at all possible (not unavoidably out of town, e.g.), I always attend no matter what’s on the program, because there’s no more complete theatrical experience than drama, singing in every sort of voice in every sort of combination, orchestral music, costume, stage scenes and lighting, and choreographed movement offered by a fully staged opera of any era. I like student and amateur productions, too, and Austin’s fortunate to have many.


  3. Séverine Sérizy (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 11:00 am

    Well, I’ll be heading to Austin next Monday evening to see “Waiting for the Barbarians”. I’ll let you know what I think….Personally I prefer going to the ballet than to the opera. Why do operas have to last such a long time?! Human beings are only capable of concentrating for about an hour!



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