BWW Review: Forget Mozart. It is THE FORCE OF THINGS that Begs Our Attention
Ashley Fure's and Adam Fure's THE FORCE OF THINGS: AN OPERA FOR OBJECTS--one of this week's unusual attractions at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival--took place at Brooklyn's Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet in DUMBO. (That's short for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.") As far as I could tell, that first sentence was filled with misnomers: no recognizable opera, no Mozart--and no classical ballet either.
I applaud the creators' boundary-stretching attempt at changing what we traditionally think of as opera. Yet, I found THE FORCE OF THINGS more to be commended for what it represented--a reminder that while we're sitting around, going about our business, climate change is happening--than for the clarity of its delivery.
Ashley Fure, the composer (and co-director of the piece with Cesar Alvarez, designed by Fure's brother, Adam, an architect, with lighting by Nicholas Houfek), gave a little intro to the assembled throng before we went into the performance space, where we would sit on white boxes that allowed us to pivot around during the multi-directional work.
Her point: There is a "mounting hum of ecological anxiety around us." That is: If we are to believe the findings of the ecological experts (and we have good reason to do so) the environment is crumbling around us, even if we don't feel the fear that a tiger let loose in the crowd would certainly trigger.
Yet, we can't absorb the minute changes going on (eg, a half-degree change in water temperature)--just as we couldn't hear the rumblings of the 24 sub-woofers that were already working in the theatre, because their range is too low to be heard. But, like it or not, it was all happening.
As the hour-long evening progressed, we began to hear some sounds, though nothing we had any right to expect. This was true even from more traditional instruments (Ryan Muncy on saxophone, Rebekah Heller on bassoon) or vocalists (Lucy Dhegrae and Lisa E. Harris) that are part of the International Contemporary Ensemble, which worked with Fure on developing the work.
The musical aspect of THE FORCE OF THINGS was mostly about vibrations and making them visible to our eyes. Three percussionists, Ross Karre, Levy Lorenzo and Dustin Donahue, used bass fiddle-like bows on long metal cable, while the vocalists whispered and breathed into bullhorns. Sounds overlapped, rhythms marked time (until our doom?), culminating in a performance on five of the subwoofers, lying prone, with strings reaching the ceilings, pulsating, twisting and turning.
Whatever you want to call the piece, it certainly wasn't dull. And its message is one that can't be repeated often enough these days.
The Mostly Mozart performances were the New York premiere of THE FORCE OF THINGS, which had its American premiere last fall at Montclair State University's Peak Performances series.