Peter Sellars directs György Kurtág's Kafka Fragments for Dawn Upshaw's Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall. Kurtág's duet for soprano and violin is an opera of aphorisms in which the phenomenal Ms. Dawn shared the stage with violintist Geoff Nuttall. His playing seems to us to strive toward a new language - one of under and overtones, intimations of notes in tune.
Carnegie's new Zankel Hall has exponentially better acoustics than the original. Coughs, sneezes and Playbill fans now account for a symphony of their own,but CQ found that Jazz (if not classical) got lost in the Carnegie's rafters. Happily Zankel Hall threatens none of that. A modern Japanese, minimalist vibe dominates - blondish wood in horizontal slats, black ceiling stacked with lights and walls both white tilted metalic arc.
The opera we saw last was Zefferilli's La Boheme at the Met and the contrast between the two sets could not be more extreme. Fragments, performed by these two barefoot players dressed in contemporary if ragged street clothes, had a set that featured a folding card table and plastic basket of cleaning woman's accoutrements. Upshaw used these to act out little dramas: detergent bottles pitched in love battles with one another; freying towels that she folded and refolded with the profoundest expression. Photographs by David Michalek projected onto a screen behind the two constituted all the other fireworks - which prooved more than enough as the music rendered the hall incandescent. Her voice and his playing still resound within us and the approach we thought extrordinarily well suited to the Kafka material. As one fragment notes: