"Alice in Wonderland" in Munich.
by Alex Ross
[Unsuk] China's sound world is seductively cavernous, suggesting
not only the magical rabbit hole down which Alice tumbles but
also the psychological crevasses beneath the surface of Carrolla's
writing. From the depths arise fluttering woodwinds, a hypnotically
chiming celesta, and an ambient haze of strings. Within a few
minutes, the entire orchestra is glittering weirdly: familiar
shapes hover at odd angles; age-old harmonies materialize from
clouds of timbre and texture; childlike snatches of song appear
and disappear, like the body of the Cheshire Cat.
None of Chin's many works performed in Berkeley (during the Nagano years)
sounded anything like that. Not having heard "Alice," I cannot, of
course, comment on it, but one wonders.
Nagano has reportedly been giving the orchestra more of a workout
than did his predecessor, Zubin Mehta. Yet the musicians are
playing zealously for their new director, and a "Nagano sound"
is in evidence: an aesthetic of polish, transparency, and
More workout than from Mehta? That's placing the bar high!...:) Nagano
has done some excellent work in LA and Berlin, but has he become this
good? Anyone from Munich?
The dressy Munich crowd seemed to have no objection either to
Rihma's discords or to Denokea's nipples; frenetic applause
swept the theatre afterward. In one short season, Nagano has
made Munich a progressive opera capital.
Game, set, match in one season? One wonders yet again.
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