Years ago I taped a friend's copy of the Phillip Glass opera
"Einstein On The Beach." For the most part, I like
Glass' music. However, I found that "EOTB" was an
exercise in unlistenability to the point where, after having
started the tape playing for my college roommate, attending
class, then having come back to find the tape still playing, I
shouted, "Turn that thing off!" and slammed my hand on
the tape deck. That particular tape has not seen the light of day
So it's a bit of a mystery why I went to see Glass' latest
opus, Monsters of Grace, performed live in
Toronto at Roy Thompson
Hall. Have you ever been there? Some of the best seats are
right down on the floor in the middle, and we had a pretty good
view of them from where we were sitting up in the nosebleed
seats.We were up in the Gods, as far right as you could get so
you could still see the projection screen (the Phillip Glass
ensemble performed live underneath a 70mm computer-generated
film.) It being 3D, everyone was wearing polarized 3D glasses.
Out usher's caution when handing them out bears repeating:
"Hesitate to touch the lenses." What could this mean?
Was it a polite way of telling me that I'd be sorry if I mucked
around with these fragile things, or did she just subscribe to
the saying that good things come to those who wait. Or hesitate.
But aren't you lost in that case? These, and our incredible
altitude filled my obviously vacant mind while we waited for the
lights to go down.
The music was just fine, to my ear -- in parts dreamy and
soothing, in others very urgent and clangy. Maybe this doesn't
sound so great, but it kind of was. However, I could easily have
done without the film. It was dim (perhaps due to its geometry
with respect to our seats), and moved in a way that physicists
call "quasistatic". Which meant that more likely than
not, the screen was full of very slowly moving lines whose color
changed from time to time. Actually, that was my favourite part
of the film, even though it doesn't sound so great. But it was.
At the end of the performance, there was much applauding, and
one person lowing very loudly. At the post-coital chat with Atom
Egoyan and Glass, Egoyan quipped that the lone booer was booing
him and not Glass. Whatever. I want to see art that
provokes a reaction -- good or bad. And if someone else wants to
express how little they enjoyed it, then I support them, as long
as it doesn't interfere with those who might actually be enjoying
it. Glass and Egoyan were seated at a head table in the lobby and
had a little interview in which Atom asked some questions, and
Phillip gave some replies. Things happened, and you didn't really
understand it all, but it sounded pretty good.
A final note on the evening: even though the opera itself was
only 73 minutes long, and the chat was no more than an hour, and
we left the hall no later than 10:30 p.m., I was just dead tired.
I know that doesn't sound so great.