DAVID LANG (b.1957): The Loser.
Catalogue Number: 03V065
Description: In his chamber monodrama-opera, Lang captures perfectly the fascinating obsessive monotony of Thomas Bernhard's eponymous novel. In a rambling first-person monologue, the narrator recounts how he and a fellow pianist, Wertheimer, were students in Horowitz' masterclasses alongside Glenn Gould. Their idolization of Gould destroyed both their lives, but it becomes increasingly clear from the narrator's self-absorbed litany of self-deprecation, deprecation of Wertheimer, deprecation of everything except his vision of Gould, that if Wertheimer was ostensibly ‘the loser', he, the narrator, is as deserving of this epithet. Both dramatically gave up promising piano careers; Wertheimer tyrannized his sister and finally killed himself, while the narrator appears to be wasting his life on endless musings and meditations on Gould's perfection and his and Wertheimer's loser-ness. Lang sets the sung narrative - a tour de force for the singer/actor - to a score composed of small repetitive gestures for combinations of a couple of instruments (the textures thicken and the piano puts in an appearance as the work reaches - ‘climax' seems too demonstrative a word; the episodes in which the self-destructive behaviors of both Wertheimer and the narrator become unmistakable, then). A subtle modulation, a slight change in the repeated motifs is all it takes to indicate a shift in the action - or the studied, controlled, prosaic recollection and description of action, as no action actually takes place. In the text, unexplained and unnecessary italics and changes in tense point to random emphases and jumps in the narrator's train of thought, and Lang's little 'splices' in the musical narrative serve the same purpose. The dramatic tension rises as the narrative continues, and the instrumental part in the sixth and seventh scenes is more vehement than before, and the piano puts in an appearance - in the background, from which it gradually emerges as the piece moves towards its conclusion. But then the narrator's actions and musings subside into hopelessness and futility, and the music fades out in aimless loops of piano playing. The sum total is a perfectly executed piece of ‘depression porn', if there is such a thing, and as tiresome as an hour in the company of a born loser may be, somehow you just can’t look away. Libretto included. Rod Gilfrey (baritone), Conrad Tao (piano), Bang on a Can Opera Ensemble; Lesley Leighton.