Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anaïs Nin Review

Frits van der Waa, exclusively for this blog, reports about Amsterdam performance of "Anaïs Nin":

The Dutch premiere of Louis Andriessen's Anaïs Nin was presented Thursday night in a crowded Muziekgebouw - which may be the result of the composers' appearance, the day before in the prime time show De wereld draait door. The new monodrama was performed by ensemble Nieuw Amsterdams Peil, who opened the program with Martijn Padding's Mordants en Guus Janssens Hu Hu Baley - excellent music and on a par with LA's work.
The book of Anaïs Nin is culled by Andriessen from Nin's diaries and from writings by Antonin Artaud and René Allendy, two of her lovers. She reminisces about her affairs, notably about her incestuous relationship with her own father, the composer Joaquín Nin. The role of the slightly vapid Anaïs fits Cristina Zavalloni, Louis Andriessen's muse since many years, like a glove. The only props are a chaise longue and a tea tray. Furthermore, director Jeroen de Man, added a video screen, where we can see snippets of Anaïs's past, with spoken quotations. But the audience cannot be swept away by this, because at times the 'tape' is spooled back and forth by Anaïs. In the beginning there is some interplay between music and video, but after some time the music takes over.
The score is certainly among Andriessen's finest, although the piece is at most 45 minutes long. The texture and vocal lines hark back to M is for Man, Music, Mozart (1991), but over the years Andriessen’'s style has become more supple and versatile. Helped by the 8-piece ensemble, fine musicians such as reed players David Kweksilber and Michiel van Dijk, pianist Gerard Bouwhuis and violinist Heleen Hulst, the composer suggests small orchestral miracles. At the same time, the music contains subtle traces of older music, like Weill's songs from the thirties, or American fifties' jazz. Beneath the surface, there's a lot going on, such as the wobbly, but nonetheless sure-footed octave jumps.
 Aided by the amplification, Mrs Zavalloni gives a powerful performance, although her voice isn't particularly beautiful and sometimes has a grating effect. The good thing is that the music is not 'expressive' in the classical sense, but rather straightforward, sung declamation - which doesn't prevent Andriessen from slipping in howling 'seufzers' at the great melancholy climax.
This music is thoroughly theatrical, and Andriessen employs a lot of time-honoured tricks. The most overt one is also the most effective: In the last minute the musicians stop playing, and we hear, far off, a melancholy song, accompanied by a muffled instrument - a guitar, a harp, a piano? It's an old song by Joaquín Nin, Anaïs father and lover, and it has a melancholy Andriessen probably never could have realized by himself, but which is so strongly reinforced and put in perspective by all what went before that it has become an integral part of his composition.

(The photo of Cristina Zavalloni as Anaïs Nin from the world premiere in Siena)

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