Adam's Passion


Adam's Passion performance art event. Music by Arvo Pärt. Stage direction, set design, and lighting concept by Robert Wilson. Choreography by Lucinda Childs, who also performs as Woman. Performed 2015 in the Noblessner Foundry Building (an old submarine factory) in Tallinn, Estonia. Features following dancers:  Michalis Theophanous (Man or Adam); Trevor Mattias Sakias (Boy); Endro Roosimäe and Erki Laur (Cain and Able); Tatejana Kosmõnina (A woman); Triin Marts (Another woman); Evelin Tanis (Girl); and Madis Kolk (Old Man), Lui Laur (Another boy), Kätrin Kärsna (Another girl), and Indrek Hirsrnik (Tall boy). Tõnu Kaljuste conducts the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Instrumental soloists are Harry Traksmann, violin; Robert Traksmann, violin; Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann, prepared piano. Package includes an especially nice booklet. Directed for TV by Andy Sommer; produced by Paul Smaczny. Choruses sung in Latin and Russian. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

Although he has written relatively little music, Pärt may be the most approachable modern composer of classical music. Three older pieces by Pärt used here are Adam's Lament (2009), Tabula Rasa (1977), and Miserere (1989/92). Pärt wrote the short Sequentia especially for Adam's Passion and it receives its world premiere in this performance. Wilson and Childs worked with Philip Glass on the famous opera Einstein on the Beach You will see in the screen shots and the Accentus clip below a lot of similarity between Adam's Passion and Einstein. Perhaps the biggest difference is that Einstein has a single libretto and score with a unified vision (lasts more than 4 hours) whereas Lament sits on top of 4 different works (lasts about 87 minutes). It appears to us that none of the individual characters on the stage in Adam's Passion make any sound. So we call this performance art rather than opera.

In our first screenshot you see the unusual venue with the orchestra and chorus behind the spectators. Well, the music comes out of the front speakers in my HT, not the small surround speakers in the rear of the room:


The Adam character below (Michalis Theophanous) is naked and moves very slowly in classic Robert Wilson style:


The characters below with the round hands are Cain and Able (Endro Roosimäe and Erki Laur). You can see them in the video below spinning madly about, which represents strife. Wilson has a similar character in Einstein whirling around in the spaceship scene directing traffic:


Andy Sommers made a fantastically good video of this, especially considering the low light. We did a Ballet Wonk Worksheet. The overall pace achieved by Sommers is close to 17 seconds per clip but gets slowed down a bit to an average of 15.5 seconds by the end when many new characters show up the stage and demand attention. Sommers also gets 65% whole-body shots while giving us many powerful near and close-up shots for variety in this piece characterized by somewhat static staging. Next below is an effective close-up:


The shot below shows the oddly shaped stage created by Wilson:


Lighting is extremely important in any Wilson show. Below is a magnificent image by Sommers showing Wilson's virtuosity in lighting:


Next below the young and the old. You can see much more of the boy in the video clip below. The boy is dressed like the youth figure in Einstein, who plays with surreal toys evoking one of Wilson's favorite symbols --- the mysterious white bar:


You will note, of course, how the blue stage and use of smoke here is the same as the design of Einstein. Likewise the wall below of large lights shining from the back of the stage directly into the eyes of the spectators. Do you remember the lawyer in Einstein arriving late in court with his strangely illuminated briefcase? Well, here a similar figure appears dressed in a typical Wilson garment lugging strangely illuminated blocks of ice:


More surreal stiff going on. In Einstein there was a crane --- here there's a ladder that stands alarmingly off balance on one leg. Poor Adam has acquired business clothing and now must hustle for a living like the rest of us:


At the end a forest chorus appears, but aren't actually singing:


If you have an interest in contemporary arts, you will want to get this title. It's hard to see how it could be improved on. SQ and PQ are excellent. The musical performance is arresting and the stage show is mesmerizing if you like this sort of thing. Finally, the video content is exemplary, which is still too rare in a world suffering so badly from DVDitis. Grade: A+

Here's an official clip: