The next two offerings in Opera Manhattan’s One-Act Opera Festival were presented in a double-billing, as is typically done with these psychological thrillers.
ERWARTUNG (Expectation) – by Arnold Schoenberg, written 1909, premiered 1924
One might cringe at the thought of sitting through a 30-minute opera written by Schoenberg. He hasn’t exactly gained as many fans in the opera world as, say, Puccini. However, this musical prophet was a genius in his own right, delivering atonal-esque melodies and harmonies that were harsh and somewhat ugly at the first strike of the hammer but stunning and intricately beautiful when presented in the context of a lone woman in the middle of a psychotic episode trying to make sense of an unkind world and a traumatic event – the death/murder of her husband. Was he there or wasn’t he? Was he cheating on her or not? Was he dead? Did she do it?
Or was this just a dream? Schoenberg said, "In Erwartung the aim is to represent in slow motion everything that occurs during a single second of maximum spiritual excitement, stretching it out to half an hour." The excitement was definitely front and center when the first few glorious chords spewed forth from the piano this past weekend.
Tearing through the forest with hurricane-strength in a desperate attempt to find her love, Jenny Searles was a force to be reckoned with. Hers is an amazing instrument of power and skill. This young talent drew you in from the moment of her first breath and made you hang on to each and every splendid note that filled the air for 30 exhilarating minutes. She was the very stature of beauty amidst the ugly world in which she existed, standing tall and elegant at times, then lying silent and still when nothing else was left for her but simple expectation. Searles tore into the score with abandon and gave a riveting performance of this extremely difficult masterpiece.
At the keyboard, Samuel Kardos provided a stunning display of what must be the nimblest fingers to ever grace a keyboard. The pages of the piano score were so over-stuffed with musical notes that at times it was easier to see what remained white instead of trying to guess which notes were actually printed there. It was truly a dazzling accomplishment from quite a talented musician.