John Adams' "El Niño"

Don't go!

It's a trap. A religious cult has abducted John Adams and forced him to create a monstrosity, called "El Niño," which opened in New York tonight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Unfortunately our city will be subjected to its offensive cant again on Saturday.

While there were some beautiful musical moments, and one extraordinary extended piece, "Memorial to Tlateloco," the oratorial was basically ill-conceived, and should never have seen the light of day. "El Niño" offended me and should profoundly offend any humanist and anyone concerned with the dignity of women.

I do not go to the concert hall or the opera to be subjected to religious proselytizing, a glorification of the mysteries of the Roman Catholic superhero and an argument for the transfigurative fulfillment of women in the role of motherhood, especially something created in this, my own era, one I would generally like to share with rational people of good conscience. Not incidently, and not surprisingly, this monstrosity was also simply bad art.

Samples from the text:

"O how precious is the virginity
of this virgin whose gate is closed,
and whose womb holy divinity infused with his warmth
so that a flower grew in her.
This is from Hildegard von Bingen, whose music we all adore, but whose words are better left to our imagination, or Latin, 900 years later. But here's more, from one of the three kings, via the Nicaraguan writer Rubén Darío:
"I am Balthasar. I have brought gold.
I assure you, God exists. He is great and strong.
I know it is so because of the perfect star
that shines so brightly in Death's diadem."
In the interest of full disclosure, I confess [sic] that I really, really love Adams' "Nixon in China" and "The Death of Klinghofer," and I have championed both as the very best operas of the late twentieth century, but the great man came up with even more than just a dud this time. I will think twice, maybe more, before going back again.

I don't think you're making clear what your problem with the piece actually is.

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Published on March 21, 2003 12:48 AM.

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