Saturday, July 9, 2011

OPUS by Michael Hollinger

I went to a play last night--this is something I do perhaps once a decade. I'm more of a concert-goer. But this one seemed like fun. It's a new play about a string quartet, which intrigued me, and also featured a delectable local actress. The two things that stood out for me were the opportunity to see how non-musicians view chamber music and how some theater tends to fall prey to the need to stroke the audience's biases. One was the seemingly ubiquitous and gratuitous need to push the usual political buttons: we know this play was written before 2008 because the President is referred to as a "pig" (it dates from 2006). The current one would never be treated so disrespectfully of course! Another was the sacred role fulfilled by a young woman. It is she who is the leaven, the vehicle of truth that opens up the all-male quartet to change and growth, of course!

The sub-title: Sex, Drugs and Chamber Music was another shibboleth. So was there anything other than an amusing story here? There was certainly an attempt to move us. At the very end, one character tells us that the way for a string quartet to die is in the middle of a rest, all together, during a performance at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. There is some lovely purplish speech about the wonders of music--always seeming to equate it with really good sex. Between four people of course!

An entertaining evening, nonetheless. But the truth is that what chamber musicians really talk about behind closed doors, between runs-through, is usually more mundane things like money, travel plans, money and where to get your bow re-haired.

My favorite part of the play was the hoary old joke about the make-up of a string quartet: one good violinist, one bad violinist, an ex-violinist and someone who doesn't even like the violin...

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