The soundtrack to Monk's 1993 opera Atlas does sound incomplete without the performance. And yes, it is long and difficult. And, in terms of Monk's self-professed ambition to make this release stand alone on the strength of the music only, it is a failure. But with knowledge of the libretto (luckily summarized in the CD booklet), this recording can easily be considered one of Monk's greatest works. Portraying the story of Alexandra, an adolescent girl/adult woman with dreams of exploration, the opera portrays her travels and experiences using very few actual words -- mostly assonant syllables. Dreamy and emotive for the first "Personal Climate" section, the mood of the piece becomes at times shrill, and at other times chaotic as Alexandra travels the world in the second "Night Travel" portion of the opera. The third and final part, "Invisible Light," closes the opera with a somewhat "celestial" sounding cadence. High points include "Ice Demons," "Choosing Companions," and "Airport."
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AllMusic Review by Mark Allender
|Atlas, an opera in 3 parts for 18 voices & large ensemble|