Thomas Ades had warned America ("weak from f... and drink") that
the end is near, as "the just, coming from the east... will burn
all the land... all the sky." The destruction will be by "good
soldiers" whose reward "shall be that they will have in Heaven
In Ades' "America (a Prophecy)," the mezzo sings a sick valentine
to this country: May you all suffer the pains of the damned
-"Burn, burn, burn. On earth we shall burn. We shall turn to ash
[which] shall drift across the land... Weep, but know this well:
Ash feels no pain."
Is this work - scheduled for its West Coast premiere at the
Cabrillo Music Festival on Aug. 12 - just a horribly tasteless
musical comment on 9/11? No, the really spooky thing is that
Ades wrote it two years before 2001, on commission from the New
York Philharmonic, as a "message for the Millennium." Kurt Masur
conducted the U.S. premiere on Nov. 11, 1999. (I heard it at a
London performance, conducted by Ades, in 2002, post 9/11, and
much more disturbing.)
Unlike the bizarre story surrounding it, the 15-minute piece
itself is a simple affair, mostly a pastiche, running in place,
looking for some cohesion or meaning. It has achieved a kind of
"succes de scandale," similar to his loathsome "Powder Her Face"
that Kent Nagano had premiered with the Berkeley Symphony, in
advance of its staged American premiere in Aspen.
Ades, whose The Tempest is being performed at the Santa
Fe Opera currently, is due again here in December, at a personal
appearance and for piano recital with San Francisco Performances
(www.performances.org), where he will have a brief residency.
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