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I attended Experiments in Opera‘s inaugural festival at le Poisson Rouge on January 16. Of particular interest to me was Matthew Welch‘s Borges and the Other excerpts, which I’d heard performed once before a couple years ago; you can see my review of that event on my other blog, kleineKultur. You can see a full video of the excerpts from the LPR show (Scenes 1 and 3 from Act I) above.

A little background: this piece is the second in a series of short operas by Matthew that center around Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges. The first opera (premiered in 2007) featured two mezzo-sopranos portraying an older and younger Borges meeting in a dream space. This second opera finds a 70-year-old Borges (Jeffrey Gavett) and a 19-year-old Borges (James Rogers) meeting “in a circumstance of fantasy,” as Matthew puts it. 1969 Cambridge on a bench beside the Charles river for the former, 1918 Geneva on a bench a few steps from the Rhone for the latter.

The adagio tempo and undulating motion of the ensemble in Scene 1, combined with the quivering notes from the vibraphone, paint a picture both of water and an hypnotic, fantasy state. As they discuss the strangeness of their encounter, the older Borges counsels the younger that “our obligation is to accept the dream,” while the younger replies “but what if the dream should last?”

Scene 3 features a faster, more agitated tempo, and younger and older Borges singing sinuous lines in harmony, discussing each other’s work in an equally critical manner. This scene, as with Scene 1, ends with a sort of jig in 3/4 time, which serves to abruptly jerk one out of the fantasy.

Check out a full production of Borges and the Other at EiO’s spring festival May 10-11 at Roulette.

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