Monday, April 14, 2014

"Lost Highway" is also an opera by Olga Neuwirth, based on the film of David Lynch

The now “classic” 1997 noir film “Lost Highway” by David Lynch exists also as an opera, composed by Olga Neuwirth (female, Austrian) with a libretto by Elfried Jelinek. The original film score had been filmed by Angelo Badalamenti. 

The opera can be played “free” on YouTube from this link right now, with one still picture showing;  it runs 93 minutes.  It can be purchased on a CD through Amazon (link) for $26 but requires hardware that can play “super Audio” SACD compatible which many CD and DVD players (even BluRay) may not yet have.  I checked mine and it doesn’t seem that I have it.  The publisher (Kairos) should issue the score on conventional CD (2 discs, 33 tracks) and make available for “Cloud” Mpg download on Amazon, if it wants revenue from legitimate sales.  I would have been willing to purchase it.

The style of the music is certainly expressionistic, and is almost “non musical” as it begins with subterranean groans.  There are plenty of surreal effects from the Webern world, like flutter-tongueing (sounding like a gurgle, reminding me of those days in the early 1960s when my father complained that I was “listening for distortion” in my records).  But it livens up, with many sharp chamber and brass passages, and sometimes will scream out repeated notes, like the famous “B” near the end of Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” (which I did see in New York City at the Met in 1974).  This is about as atonal as you can get.
Some of the critical lines from the story are spoken, which does help the listener follow the high points, particularly when Pete Dayton is found in the jail cell replacing Fred Madison (about 32 minutes into the opera).  I love the line toward the end, “We have to go to the desert.” The reader can read the find details on the Wikipedia entry for the movie.  The buildup in the first half hour is mesmerizing, as Fred keeps getting videotapes of his activity at home with his wife, and then is teased by a Mystery Man in two places at the same time.  The idea of waking up in a different body, maybe barely possible according to quantum physics, certainly can lead to some areas of existentialism, applicable in my own writing, to be covered soon on my new Wordpress blogs.  (You can see the interpretation of Elijah Malmrose in the video above.) The very end is fascinating: fortissimo, but then dwindling back in guttural noises of the grave, as Fred meets his well deserved demise, perhaps “escaped”, but on the Lost Highway.  It seems to me that if “you” do something evil, you won’t get away from it that easily with an escape through fantasy.    

The opera was premeiered at the Finney Chapel at Oberlin College in Oberlin Ohio in Feb. 2007, and performed by Oberlin students at the Miller Theater in New York. 

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