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■  Roberto Alagna and Elīna Garanča as Samson and Dalila in the new Met staging sometimes his experiments work nicely: his lulling, sing-song the little match girl passion or his amusingly lurid anatomy theater, in which a dissected but beauteous nude female corpse sings imperturbably.

Elizabeth Diller (who directed The Mile-Long Opera with Lynsey Peisinger, a longtime collaborator with the performance artist Marina Abramović) has expressed concern about the impact of the High Line, its first segment opened in 2009 and completed in 2014. It was intended as a unifying community experience but has become a force for extreme gentrification, a magnet for tourists, mostly white and middle-class, and real estate developers and starchitects. So she enlisted Lang and two notable poets, Anne Carson (whose words were sung) and Claudia Rankine (spoken texts assembled from neighbourhood interviews, full of nostalgia and optimism and sweet regrets). The horde of performers came from all five New York boroughs, of every race and class and age, a couple in wheelchairs.

The result was an hour-plus walk over 1.45 miles (‘mile-long’ was itself a poetic conceit), northward from near the new Whitney Museum up to the fast-developing Hudson Yards, full of grandiose high-rises, some designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro. The opera was subtitled ‘a biography of 7 o’clock’, since that’s when it began, at dusk, though it continued into the night with its myriad twinkling lights.

As we walked we encountered some 1,000 performers (as billed), most standing solitary like totems, some grouped chorally, some on the side of the High Line proper or even beneath it. All were illuminated like ghosts in faint blue-white light in various ingenious ways, such as caps with glowing visors. They were unamplified except softly towards the end, when in competition with the West Side Highway and its adjacent heliport. Mostly the performers stared ahead noncommittally, but some made eye

Opera, December 2018


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