A Schubert and Beckett Recital
Total Rating: 
March 21, 2017
March 21, 2017
Los Angeles
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Theater Type: 
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Theater Address: 
111 South Grand Street
Running Time: 
2 hrs, 15 min
Drama w/ Music
Music: Franz Schubert. Text: Samuel Beckett
Yuval Sharon

Thanks to the vision and daring of director Yuval Sharon, those in the audience of Night and Dreams at Disney Hall recently were privileged to be in on the birth of a new theatrical art form. Sharon, head of the avant-garde opera company, The Industry, and an artist-collaborator for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, mounted six short plays by Samuel Beckett into whose text was woven Franz Schubert’s words and music. The result was a night of remarkable theatricality and originality — a miracle, really.

The plays, three of which, coincidentally, were seen last January in a separate production at Odyssey Theater Ensemble, were Ohio Impromptu, Come and Go, Catastrophe, Act Without Words II, That Time, and Rockaby, starred some of L.A.’s finest Beckett interpreters: Barry McGovern, Bella Martin, Priscilla Pointer, Julia Bullock, Miles Anderson and Alan Mandell.

The two singers were bass-baritone Ryan McKinny and soprano Julia Bullock, both of whom not only sang various Schubert songs but took part in some of the Beckett sketches.

The union of Beckett and Schubert was not an arbitrary one, for, as Sharon points out in a program note, “Both Beckett and Schubert created universes inhabited by lonely souls. . . Even if we don’t understand Schubert’s German or we feel puzzled by Beckett’s absurdity, listening to their works invites us into our own solitude...They remind us that we will all ultimately face one thing all by ourselves–our own dying.”

Then, too, Beckett admitted to an obsession with Schubert, whom he called his friend in suffering — which fact prompted Sharon to ask, “Was Schubert Beckett’s doppelganger?”

The question is answered in the affirmative in Night and Dreams, which united playwright and composer in seamless fashion as each investigated the theme of love and death in his own unique way.

The plays were mostly staged on carts which slid on and off stage on a monorail, with Christopher Kuhl’s lighting and Judith Dolan’s costumes creating striking images. In one instance (“That Time”), Anderson, McGovern and Mandell read Beckett’s text from three different positions high up in the Disney auditorium, lit cunningly by Kuhl’s pinspots.

More than just matching Beckett’s sonorous cadences was Schubert’s music and text (all his songs were based on classic 18th century German poems). The beauty, irony, sadness (and occasional humor) of such lyrics as “Laughing and Crying,” “Death and the Maiden,” and “The Gravedigger’s Homesickness” were not only conveyed by the singers (and their pianists, Wenwen Du and Richard Valitutto) but made unforgettable.

Singers: Ryan McKinny, Julia Bullock. Actors: Alan Mandell, Barry McGovern, Miles Anderson, Bella Merlin, Priscilla Pointer
Set: John Iacovelli; Lighting: Christopher Kuhl; Costumes: Judith Dolan; Wigs/Hair: Carol Doran
Willard Manus
Date Reviewed: 
March 2017