Performing Arts: Music
June 23, 2014
Humor and awe mate at the Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s presentation of Kate Soper and Nigel Maister’s “I Was Here I Was I.”

The contemporary music/theater chamber opera cleverly traces the passage of time, from the Temple’s existence in Egypt to it’s present home at the Met. Built in 15 B.C. on the Nile, the Temple of Dendur arrived gilded in dramatic fanfare at the Met in 1978.

Performed by the innovative ensemble Alarm Will Sound, the audience assembled on three sides of the temple that includes two oblong pools of water (elegant moat) in front of the temple.

Imaginative staging included human beings as well as instruments representing characters from the drama. Spilling out of the temple’s mythology, two violinists/vocalists assumed the parts of the Egyptian twins honored in the Temple. The story fades in and out of the unflappable British Egyptologist Amelia Edwards (Ms. Soper) a goofy, camera strapped current day tourist (Matt Marks) and the engineer working on the Aswan Dam in 1963 before the removal of the Temple of Dendur.

Everything is about balance. Spoken text flows around clear, bell-like singing and new music expresses atonality inside the framework of lyrical, atmospheric sounds that merge seamlessly with jazzy notes laced around medieval chants, bells, fingers circling the tops of wine glasses, soaring flutes and string instruments.

Eyes shift across the space tracking the characters and their associated instrumentalist, from one location to another, and in the process, making the viewers see the Temple in new ways.

Performed next to the slanted wall of windows, “I Was Here I Was I” travels through time just as the sun passes across the same sky over the Temple in 5 B.C.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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