Philip Glass Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Philip Glass Ensemble


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At first the notion of replacing the original sound track to Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast with an "opera" written by Philip Glass seems preposterous. After all, George Auric's 1946 score neatly enhances the film's enchanting mystery and erotic undercurrents. Yet surprisingly Glass's attempt at merging vocal music with cinema--the second in his trilogy of compositions based on Cocteau films--offers a valid albeit highly idiosyncratic take on a classic. Glass takes the original French dialogue as his libretto: in performance, the musicians and singers synchronize their deliveries with images from the film, which is projected on a large screen behind

them. Unexpectedly melodious and warm in tone by Glass's standard, the minimalist-tinged, Debussy-influenced score is divided into 18 scenes, each evoking the emotional twists and turns of the moment. The patterned rhythms and obsessive repetitions characteristic of the Glass sound still dominate, but for once they're circumscribed by a narrative. What comes across is an amusing, often mesmeric musical counterpart--though not quite a complement--to a visually stunning love story. The film-opera, scored for keyboards, flutes, saxes, and voices, will be performed by Glass's own ensemble, conducted by longtime associate Michael Riesman. Mezzo Janice Felty and baritone Gregory Purnhagen sing the title roles; Glass is the keyboardist. Sunday and Monday, 7:30 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; 902-1500.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Joan Marcus.

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