insane in a good way

last night was an insane display of extremes at the schnitz.  schubert’s #6, which opened the double-header, felt light, bouncy, airy, soft, subtle, birdlike, very classical, with barely detectable horns – far removed from the featured work that followed.  returning from intermission, the compact orchestra that just played a pretty little symphony was now seriously beefed up with more horns, four vocal soloists, and a huge-ass choir all ready to take us to church.  the “stabat mater” (latin for “grieving mother”) is an old, old religious text based on the story of mary witnessing the execution of her only son jesus… i know… sounds like a real pick-me-up, right?  primarily known as a mid-19th century composer of italian opera like “the barber of seville,” gioachino rossini decided it would be a good idea for him to set this prayer poem to music.  even as the tenor and soprano are extolling the audience to share in christ’s torments and remember his bloody wounds, i cannot escape the image of elmer fudd growing flowers out of his head.  because i happen to be a midwestern suburban kid raised on saturday morning cartoons, the sounds and images of chuck jones’ brilliant “rabbit of seville” are indelibly burned into my memory, and all the cartoonish extremes were right there on stage for me to witness: the larger-than-life tenor, the crazy-haired conductor, the insane depths of the bass voice, the lack of applause between movements, the full-length evening gowns, the contorted facial expressions of the singers, and the bouncy operatic comedy of the music itself.  just when the work threatened to become an ironic and theatrical farce rivaling  “springtime for hitler,” entire sections of solemn beauty miraculously appeared: the mezzo soprano singing a heart-aching solo, the spot-on 130+ voices of the choir sounding eerily similar to philip glass’ koyaanisqatsi, and the incredible dynamic range the orchestra displayed throughout the piece.  i’m really glad i got to be there for such insanity.

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