By D. Rane Danubian, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music
                                                                 Week of May 31-June 6, 2005
                                                                  Vol. 7, No. 81
        Opera can be a wild multimedia experience, in your face, hurled at you in every medium, in a way you won't encounter at our grand-opera houses.
         In a tiny Mission-District loft, a small visiting German company presented the stunning creation "Blinde Liebe" (Blind Love), a melange of dance, film, video, live music, fantasy projections, speech, song, and, oh, yes, reality, composed by
Erling Wold. With actresses hitting on audience members, projectors "malfunctioning" in a manner requiring ladders at center stage, directors arguing with performers, all the lines are fascinatingly blurred---between audience and performers, between reality and fantasy, between rehearsal and show, between script and improv.
         The fourth wall was simply and decisively demolished.
         The upshot was the most engrossing contemporary opera-dance-theater I have encountered in ages, despite a modest budget, a marginal locale, multilingual libretto, a gratuitous guilt trip and a tiny company.
          Reality was the departure point for
"Blinde Liebe," based on a young couple who had murdered an elderly man in revenge for  his sexual abuse committed many years earlier.  The opera alternates perspectives of the courtroom testimony with exuberant dances and vocals by a soprano and countertenor, all delivered with great immediacy and impact, just inches away from the audience at the Dance Mission Theater on 24th St.
          The performing company Palindrome hailed from Nuremberg, giving three performances May 26-29 in collaboration with the local instrumentalists of Erling Wold's Fabrications. The idiom was strongly influenced by German production modes---especially with dance tending to dance-theater. The net effect was for most of us a revelation, creating what one might call a "blur production," where the listener/viewer is totally uncertain of, well, practically everything.
          Projections were elaborate, often showing live action with delays and stop-action effects, further obscuring reality. There was something titillating about being so horribly disoriented.
          The multi-national cast was headed by the young, diminutive dynamo of an actress from Holland, Diana Wildschut, plus dancers Helena Zwiauer, Robert Wechsler, and Aimar Perez Gali, all but Gali being also the choreographers. Singers were Johannes Reichert and Mairko Wakito. A paragon of versatility, Wildschut also created the lighting and computer graphics (!).
          While the story---much of it sympathetic to the perspectives of the crime's perpitrators---is a meaty one, the opera's sour note was its insistence that the audience was a pleasure-seeking animal totally unsympathetic to Jenny and Robert.
          I don't mind so much performers grabbing me in the front row, or making eyes at me. But I question the effectiveness of an opera built on making the audience feel profoundly guilty for a rather routine crime-blotter event that happened eight years ago some 5,000 miles away.
          The production did however grab me. It was yet another highlight of the "San Francisco International Arts Festival," an event small enough to escape the notice of the local Sunday paper's arts calendar. But the festival featuring programs from 10 nations runs May 18-June 5 with a strong dance emphasis, culminating with the mighty Royal New Zealand Ballet in a far larger venue June 3-4.
San Francisco International Arts Festival, at Dance Mission Theater, S.F., and other locales, through June 5. Info: (415) 978-2787. URL for SFIAF: URL for Palindrome:
          ©D. Rane Danubian 2005                                        #        
. Rane Danubian has been covering the dance and modern-music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area with relish -- and a certain amount of salsa -- for years.
    These critiques appearing weekly (or sometimes semi-weekly, but never weakly) will focus on dance and new musical creativity in performance, with forays into books (by authors of the region), theater and recordings by local artists as well.                       #       
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