Two Modern Operas
At Paine Hall and the B.U. Theater
Two widely divergent contemporary operas were presented this weekend at Harvard and B.U. The first was The Man in The Man-Made Moon, by Joel Mandelbaum '53, given its world premier Saturday night. For the hour-long opera Mandelbaum wrote both the music and the libretto. His work is mostly a spoof on the conventional opera form, although in the course of an hour he also parodies Freud, 12-tone composers, science, and the self-made man. The music enlivened the parody, especially in a romantic mock-Brahmsian chorus to the text "The complete and utter destruction of the universe." Saturday night's performance suffered from inadequate rehearsals, but the general informality helped make the opera delightful.
In complete contrast to this light-hearted parody was Hindemith's thorny Mathis der Maler, presented over the weekend in English by the B.U. Opera School. The costumes, lights, and staging were equal to and often above professional standards. The opera deals with Mathias Grunwald, the great 16th century painter and the place of the artist, or indeed of any man, in the world.
The music is Hindemith at his very best, reaching great emotional depth in the last act. The score does not compromise; it is a far cry from a Puccini or a Menotti opera. But the vocal lines float like ships on the great tidal wave of the orchestra, and, as the scenes go by, the music becomes more lyrical until at the end no one notices that the style is difficult and unfamiliar; the drama and the music have become a single experience in the listener's mind. Mathis der Maler is one of the most moving works of 20th century art.