Academic journal article Notes

Yearning for the Presence: The Originating Process of the Opera Wunderzaichen

Academic journal article Notes

Yearning for the Presence: The Originating Process of the Opera Wunderzaichen

Article excerpt

Yearning for the Presence: The Originating Process of the Opera Wunderzaichen. DVD. A film by Uli Aumuller. Berlin: EuroArts, 2015. 2060788. $19.99.

In his unfavorable review of a public reading of several works by Mark Andre at the Manchester International Festival in 2011, Andrew Clements quipped, "No doubt Andre would use the sound of paint drying if it made one." (Guardian, 12 July 2011) I contend that the sound of drying paint, given the power that contemporary technology provides to transform sounds on the border of audibility into new sonic experiences, could well be a fascinating thing.

One of the central problems with Yearning for the Presence is that the viewer is never given a chance to experience the sound of paint drying or much of anything else. Nominally a film about bringing a new opera, Mark Andre's Wunderzaichen, to the stage, the music is more often talked about than heard, more often justified than allowed to be its own advocate. One is left with the impression of performers and directors who struggled earnestly to appreciate what Andre had done, but the film never gives the viewer the chance to experience the same trajectory from befuddlement to enlightenment.

One thing that we learn about Andre's music is that it is often quiet--so quiet that at one point the sound of a vacuum cleaner in an adjacent room creates an unworkable distraction for the performers. If that sounds like the stuff of drama, it only seems that way because there is so little drama in the film.

Director Uli Aumuller spends more time on the story of Wunderzaichen. The opera has something to do with Jesus, the Kabbalah, Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522), who opposed the burning of Hebrew books, and Mary Magdalene. …

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