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BWW Review: LA Opera's DIGITAL SHORT DEATH Now Streaming

Death and the Music it Inspires

BWW Review: LA Opera's DIGITAL SHORT DEATH Now StreamingOn February 22, 2021, I watched Los Angeles Opera's digital short film, Death. It is Nadia Hallgren's nine-minute creative take on Paul Laurence Dunbar's turn-of-the 20th century poem, Death. Two crows in seemingly choreographed flight introduce scenes with myriad black birds circling the edge of a leafless forest. These birds indicate not only the decline of life but also the eventual resuscitation of nature. Hallgren's film brings to mind the last throes of winter that precede the first breath of spring. Death, the film, opens with a few words from composer and pianist Tyshawn Sorey who has given the public a gift of his thoughtful, distinctive impression, couched in fascinating harmony that describes the inevitable end of a natural life.

In this rendition of Dunbar's poem, Howard Watkins accompanies mezzo-soprano Amanda Lynn Bottoms, currently a member of the Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington National Opera. Bottoms sings with exquisite expression and gold-glinting resonance as she expresses her distress at being unable to find her way in a wilderness. Neither the poem nor the song is totally dark, however. One point, a single ray of sunlight, heralds the day. The audience is left to decide whether or not daylight shines upon earth.

Photo: a still from Nadia Hallgren's film, Death, courtesy of L A Opera.

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