"An Opera Full of Secrets From a Master of the Opaque"
The New York Times, Sunday, January 14, 2007
An article about composer Robert Ashley's latest opera, Concrete, which runs at La MaMa E.T.C. Annex in the East Village on Wednesday, January 17 through Sunday, January 21. The opera deals with the sometimes surprising secrets harbored by otherwise seemingly ordinary people, as well as the mundane ruminations that crowd the fertile mind of a creative artist with no day job and plenty of time on his hands.
Performing the vocal parts are Jacqueline Humbert, Joan La Barbara, Sam Ashley and Thomas Buckner, all distinctive vocalists and longtime members of Ashley's troupe; the composer is offstage this time, improvising the accompaniment for each performance in collaboration with sound designer Tom Hamilton. For this production, Ashley developed his music with Ableton Live, a software program more commonly used by electronica performers and producers such as Robert Henke (a.k.a. Monolake), Richie Hawtin, Coldcut and Daft Punk. (In our interview, Ashley enthused that he must surely be the oldest musician using the program.)
As Ashley's use of musical technology has become more sophisticated in his last two operas, Dust and Celestial Excursions, his thematic concerns have become more direct and humane. Those two works were profoundly moving; having read the Concrete libretto and heard rough mixes of two scenes in rehearsal, I suspect it will continue that trend. You can learn more about the production and order tickets here.