Theater review: A HOUSE IN BALI

October 20, 2010

My review of Evan Ziporyn’s opera A HOUSE IN BALI, which played three performances at BAM last week, has been posted on CultureVulture.net. I was intrigued by the production because it involved the participation of a Balinese gamelan, and I’ve just this year started playing gamelan myself with a group that performs Javanese gamelan. (A gamelan is a kind of Indonesian percussion orchestra.) But the show was pretty disappointing to me.

“As a college student, Ziporyn was understandably entranced by the wild, clangorous, hypnotic sound of Balinese gamelan…[For this piece, he]  had librettist Paul Schick adapt [Colin McPhee’s memoir A House in Bali for three singers with very traditional operatic voices …  and wrote a score to be played by the new music ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars (with which Ziporyn has performed since 1992) and Gamelan Salukat (founded in 2007 by young Balinese musicians in Pengosekan Village). There are a few moments when the Bang on a Can ensemble provides some lovely underscoring, and a few minutes when the gamelan gets to do its lively, rowdy thing with astonishing precision. But most of the time these elements are all jammed together, and the results sound agitated and ugly.”

You can read the full review here.

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