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ClassicsOnline Home » SAHL, M. / SALZMAN, E.: Civilization and its Discontents [Opera] (Sahl, Salzman)
Topical > Timeless
At least four years before the word Yuppie was coined, when laptops and cell phones were still sci-fi fantasies, New Yorkers were still getting used to the Twin Towers dominating their skyline, and the ink was barely dry on news of the Vietnam War and Watergate scandals, this little opera summed up the zeitgeist of America at the tail end of the 20th Century. It's all here in miniature.
Carlos Arachnid's Club Bide-a-Wee, where aggressive mantra-chants of "If It Feels Good Do It!" alternate with mellow refrains of "Serenity!", manages to encapsulate (a) the culture of cults like Scientology, est, and Tony Robbins, (b) the crazed spirit of one-night-stands and coke-snorting clubbers, and (c) the gently supportive atmosphere of twelve-stepping self-help groups — all this in a few moments of Arachnid's warbling arias superimposed on chaotic, incoherent ambient noise! Arachnid's Bide-a-Wee begins and ends the show. In between, we get a lovely, twisted tale of triangular love, ambition, frustration, and redemption. There's a gloriously erotic (and rudely interrupted) love duet -- as irresistible and memorable in its own way as Tristan und Isolde's act 2, but with a brevity and bounciness suited to meaningless casual lovemaking in a studio apartment. Then comes tragic melodrama when Jeremy Jive and Deryk Dude are discussing who should sing Miss Chicken in a fast-food commercial, and Jill Goodheart, who thought she had the role herself, can't take it anymore.
Did I mention the music is really good? At first it seems episodic and wildly eclectic, medieival-sounding melodies turning into zany ragtime, etc. With repeated listening you come to appreciate the underlying order and unity; everything fits, everything flows out of and into everything else. Take a chance on it.more....
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