Philip Glass: Spuren der Verirrten (The Lost)

Dennis Russell Davies

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Philip Glass: Spuren der Verirrten (The Lost) Review

by James Manheim

Spuren der Verirrten, translated here as The Lost, but in German Traces of the Lost, is a German-language opera by Philip Glass on a text adapted from a play by the experimental Austrian writer Peter Handke. Recorded here is the work's premiere performance, given at the opening of a new opera house in Linz, Austria, in 2013. It's easy to see how the organizers conceived the idea of bringing Glass and Handke together: the abstract quality of Handke's drama (the characters are merely named "Protagonist," "Spectator," "Passersby," and so on, with a little sequential chorus simply designed as letters A through K) matched that of the big Glass operas that have continued to hold the stage. It doesn't work so well in this case, however. As with other Glass works of the 21st century, the composer abandons his basic minimalist language. His characteristic repeated string figures here serve mostly as transitions. The conductor, Glass champion Dennis Russell Davies, proposes a connection between Glass' music and that of Bruckner, who lived in the Linz area. The idea is not a bad one, but Bruckner didn't write operatic music, and instead it might be described as Wagner lite. It's hard to see where Glass is going with this, and it doesn't fit the foreboding quality of the text well. The album can be recommended to Glass fans, for, well into his seventies, he is still striking out in new directions here; the singers are fine, and performances led by Davies may be taken as definitive for now. But general listeners would do better to start with the tighter In the Penal Colony (2000) if interested in the later Glass style in general or in his interaction with German literature.

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