Friday, June 10, 2005

Patrick Wright's Essay on Sir Harrison Birtwistle's The Last Supper libretto -- by Robin Blaser

Speaking of Milan, Italy, I'd like to share the link to Patrick Wright's essay "Birtwistle: The Last Supper's libretto explored" (September 2001), which was first published by Glyndebourne Festival Opera, in Glyndebourne 2001, and which is now available on the Boosey & Hawkes web-page, cited below.

The libretto for Birtwistle's "The Last Supper" -- also available at Boosey & Hawkes -- was written by a leading North American poet, Robin Blaser. The opera received its premiere in Berlin, Germany, under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.

From Patrick Wright's essay:

"Quite distinct from any amnesiac rush for novelty, Birtwistle’s radicalism consists of going to the root of musical tradition in order to create an historically informed ‘music for now’. Blaser’s libretto is written in a very similar spirit. It is an extraordinary work of cultural archaeology which, far from just retelling the story of Christianity’s inaugural moment, employs it to sound the rhythms of ‘the western heartbeat’ as they echo back and forth between biblical times and the present. ... How are we to think of that ‘religion of life’ in the knowledge of the things that have been done in its name over the last 2000 years? "

Wright points to Blaser's poetic indebtedness to seventeenth century metaphysical poets Richard Crashaw and Thomas Traherne, and also to fragments from the thoughts of contemporary thinkers, from George Steiner to Avital Ronell, the American feminist theorist of "stupidity" and other contemporary conditions.

Link to essay:

Leonardo Da Vinci "The Last Supper" (1498) image:


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