One of the difficulties of presenting even this chamber version of Lily is that it included patches of electronic music (violent explosions, creepy insect noises) which Kirchner himself recorded. On that recording was also Kirchner's own voice, as well as the lovely, smoky singing voice of his wife Gertrude evoking a native ritual. That recording was believed to be lost, but it was found among his archives. And there was Kirchner, declaiming in expressionistic style and with spine-tingling power Henderson's opening monologue (he's the wealthy pig-farmer who goes to Africa to save the natives, with dire results). How startling to hear him shouting "I want! I want! I want!"

Then there's an abrupt change of tone, as the title character, Henderson's ex-wife Lily (also Hoagland), sings an ironic bluesy song: "Meet me in the orgone box/With a double bourbon on the rocks/Feeling so low so low so low." The song ends: "It's you I want/I want you in my arms . . . I miss you." Kirchner wrote the libretto after Bellow bowed out, and Hoagland delivered it with heartbreaking wit.

This is a major piece, and I'm sure it whetted the appetite of most of us who were at this performance to hear the entire opera. Is there an opera company in Boston courageous enough to step up to the plate?

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Related: Group hug, Bach beat, Leon Kirchner, 1919–2009, More more >
  Topics: Classical , Opera, Diana Hoagland, Leon Kirchner,  More more >
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