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Glass Monsters Of Grace
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Audio CD, Audiobook, CD, 1 October 2009
- Product Dimensions : 12.32 x 14.1 x 0.81 cm; 90.72 Grams
- Manufacturer : ORANGE MOUNTAIN
- Manufacturer reference : OMM0041
- Original Release Date : 2009
- Label : ORANGE MOUNTAIN
- ASIN : B000VR0552
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: 89,557 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Starting with their monumental collaboration in 1976 with 'Einstein on the Beach', Philip Glass and Robert Wilson later became internationally known as leading creators of new music theater. In 1997, 'Monsters of Grace', which was billed as a "digital opera in 3-D", once again brought together these two creative giants in a production which included animated visuals of Robert Wilson's designs - viewed by the audience through 3-D glasses - with music by Philip Glass performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble and a cast of four singers. The 70-minute work was premiered at the UCLA Center for the Performing Arts, Los Angeles in April 1998.
This world premiere recording, with a 26-page booklet featuring Wilson's original 'Monsters of Grace' sketches, presents a transcendent Glass score which marries exotic sounds to the 13th century Sufi mystic poet Jelaluddin Rumi's words (translated/adapted from the original Persian by Coleman Banks) in a completely unique theatrical experience. Rumi's poems are meditations on the range of human experience: inspiration for Art, companionship and compassion, ruminations on earthly pleasures, questions of heaven, the secrets of life, joy, mortality, recognition of the self, and the nature of God.
As were all the other Glass/Wilson collaborations, 'Monsters of Grace' is ultimately forward looking and ambitious despite the difficulties and frustrations that occurred during its creation, mostly due to the challenge of new digital technology (the animation was ultimately extremely expensive, time consuming and inflexible). So this new recording represents a unique opportunity to re-assess a very unusual work. [The epilogue from Monsters of Grace is also on Paul Barnes' solo piano disc for Orange Mountain Music, 'The Orphée Suite for Piano.'
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This opera was the first live Philip Glass event I was able to attend in early 1999, so it holds a special place for me. Though the 3D animation concept for the visual aspects of the work didn't really gel with me, I couldn't help but be drawn to the texts and the beautiful musical setting that Glass made for them. I would rank this musically as one of Glass's most accessible works, one that I hope finds its ways into more concert halls even without the visual elements.
The reason for the 4 stars is the recording itself. Though mixed extremely well, much like the cinematic mixing that Glass recordings normally receive (how does he get that), the performances can come off as uninspired. The bass and soprano are brilliant in their performances of the Rumi texts, but the other half of the voices seem to just plod along rather than truly enjoy the texts and music they've been given to sing. And although the ensemble plays well, I wish it was given more presence in the mixing of the faster sections of the work. So although I highly recommend the work itself, the recording I'm afraid might come off as boring to some listeners not familiar with the work already. Still, it's a beautiful addition to one building a Philip Glass collection as I am doing, and has already garnered repeated hearings since I purchased it last year.