UZME Chamber Ensemble / Gergely Vajda

Péter Eötvös: As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams

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Péter Eötvös (born in 1944) is not a household name, but as a composer and conductor, he is one of the leading figures in the European avant-garde. His music is unabashedly modernist and he is not afraid of eccentricity (in his opera based on Chekhov's Three Sisters, the three sisters are sung by countertenors), but his music is so vividly communicative, emotionally direct, and often so theatrical that his work, particularly his operas, are widely performed in Europe, and the multiple productions of his Angels in America in the United States have raised his profile with American audiences. He describes As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams (1999) as a "speech opera," in which the text is dramatically spoken rather than sung. (In 2008 Eötvös developed the piece into a full-length opera that has received numerous European productions and positive reviews.) There is a single character in this original version, Lady Sarashina, an 11th century Japanese writer whose diary is the source of the text. Three other speakers and an alto and bass trombone also give voice to her thoughts, and the accompaniment is provided by an electronically enhanced chamber ensemble. The whole does in fact have the effect of a mysterious, sometime nightmarish dreamscape. Eötvös' techniques may be avant-garde, but the music is so transparently evocative and so aptly coordinated with the text that the piece has a powerfully straightforward emotional impact. Elizabeth Laurence as Lady Sarashina, and Blythe Holcomb, Nadia Hardman, and David Hill as the "dream-voices," deliver dramatically charged performances of the English-language text. The sound, beautifully engineered by the composer, is clear but appropriately atmospheric. This is a piece that should be of strong interest to fans of new opera and music theater.

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