IN…SE… -dawning- is an opera by Cypriot composer Andys Skordis. Sharing as much affinity with the “Licht” cycle of Karlheinz Stockhausen as with the Balinese traditions from which it absorbs so much atmospheric wonder, Skordis’s interdisciplinary experience weaves gamelan, voices, and dance into a constantly morphing whole. Recasting the tale of Prince Bima and his quest for holy water (from the Mahabharata), the libretto overlays Bima’s transfigurations with those of a modern woman named Ida, whose sense of oppression compels her to embark on a fiercely inner journey of her own.
Of central thematic importance in the original myth is an emphasis on the split between spirit and body, and how certain events, traumatic and holy alike, can blur the two until they are indistinguishable. The resonance with which the work opens—a symphony of prayer bowls, vibrating glasses, and bowed mallet instruments—delineates a space in which reality unfolds in slow motion. A suspension effect is at play, wherein a chorus exists only to contradict itself—a flame that burns only when doused. Shades of invisibility mark their words with wounds of suffering. The human form, reduced to shadows in a living puppetry, is a language comprised of movement, for which the soundscape is its palimpsest.
Concretely speaking, we encounter a gamelan-laden palette with voices inspired as much by tradition as by the shedding thereof. Passages of organic beauty share breathing room with explosive contrasts. Treating darkness as a physical substance through which to wander, and light as the vessel upon its waters, the story carves its topographies slowly with currents of doubt and self-regard. Congregations abound: of trees, of insects, of water, of wind, and of flesh. In this context, happiness serves only as a doorway into detachment, ending with a single persona, wandering in the self as the musicians abandon the space.
While we may not have the benefit of being in the presence of the performers in what I can only imagine was a transcendent performance, the present recording is enough to make even the most hardened mind fall away until only a bare stage remains, primed to receive sun, moon, and breath. - Tyran Grillo
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