Curious indeed is the Los Angeles Opera’s latest offering, which runs through this weekend: Bach‘s B-minor Mass, sublime in its very abstractness, and the staging (!) designed and directed by Germany’s Achim Freyer in what is listed as his American debut. (Not quite; he designed, but did not direct, the New York City Opera‘s Moses und Aron of 1990, whose ravishment also lingers in the memory.) The music, performed by just-okay German soloists with the L.A. Opera’s own orchestra and chorus, is conducted by Peter Schreier. The staging is vintage Freyer: shadows and silhouettes surrounded by scrims on which various graffiti -- Leonardo here, Saul Steinberg there -- come and go. The nine members of the “Achim Freyer Ensemble” move through shadows, and occasionally interlock arms and legs to create optical tricks -- mostly very slow. The counterpoint between light and dark is lovely to behold; the counterpoint between what you see and what you hear is something you have to work out for yourselves. There are concurrences now and then, but not often: the “Crucifixus,” as a line of slowly slogging figures is engulfed by darkness; the “Et resurrexit,” as a stage full of supine figures rise slowly and in obvious pain against the dancing exuberance of the music.
Robert Wilson does this sort of staging too, and has had practically no recognition for it in this country -- least of all in Los Angeles. Yet here is Freyer, brought over with great hoopla. I love some of his work: the Philip Glass Akhnaten that I saw in Stuttgart and his Satyagraha on video, and a thrilling Der Freischutz on video that he will re-create in San Francisco two years from now. This one doesn‘t work.