Pierrot Lunaire and L’histoire du soldat (Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

Because I needed more highly stylized 20th century Austrian art, I saw the performance of Pierrot Lunaire and The Soldier’s Tale at the Chicago Symphony last night — wow! Pierre Boulez had to bow out on the advice of his ophthalmologist, but Cristian Macelaru did a great job replacing him. Pierrot is one of my favorite pieces, and Kiera Duffy gave a stellar performance — the only thing that was missing for me was more embodiment of the character of Pierrot. This was clearly a choice, and maybe in a big performance space it wouldn’t work, but one thing that makes this piece pop in the chamber setting is the singer taking on the character of Pierrot, especially in the later movements, packing tobacco into the bald pate of Cassander, or rubbing the spot on moonlight on his black coat. The other element of the production was the projections on three screens behind the performers — rather abstracted visual compositions with the English translations moving and fading in and out in a distressed Courier. The affect reminded me a bit of those mid-episode breaks in “darker” anime shows like Lain. Perhaps a bit over the top?

The second half of the program was The Soldier’s Tale, featuring John Lithgow as the narrator, Kevin Gudahl as the devil, and Adam Van Wagoner, Demetrios Troy both playing the soldier, and Lindsey Marks as the princess. This was the best performance of this piece I have seen, even though I had an obstructed seat in the second balcony. The screens were put to good use here, helping demarcate the acts and providing some great moments for silhouettes, especially as the devil played the violin at the end.

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