Friday, November 16, 2007

Elodie Lauten MAN'S FATE Ray Johnson

Regarding the opera Orfreo by Elodie Lautens with libretto by Michael Andre. Performed by Elaine Comparone, harpsichord and the Queen’s Chamber Band. Vocalists: Marshall Coid, countertenor; Peter Castaldi, baritone; Meredith Borden, soprano; Charlotte Surkin, mezzo-soprano. At Merkin Concert Hall, June 2, 2004.

Michael Andre’s opera Ofreo was not the melo-opera I was expecting. Not an “opera a clef” Andre explains. Those coming for a re-run of Ray Johnson’s heydays and his fateful finish will find no John Willenbecker, no Billy Name, no Tobie Speiselman, and no William S. Wilson. Michael Andre has set Orfreo / Ray in the company of mythic personages, and a crow.

To this listener, Ms. Lauten's score was ravishing. The Queen’s Chamber Band inspired. The assembled voices, in various roles stunning. N.B. The Merkin Concert Hall does not lower the lights sufficiently to allow one to grope one’s seatmate hence I was able to devote complete attention to official proceedings. As to the question: “Why was man born only to die?” One is reminded that Ray planned his last event. It turns out that all his “nothings” were something all along-- of course! I wonder at this juncture, what his first planned art event was? Perhaps Bill Wilson will shed light on this. As for his last, when the tide turned in the Great Peconic Bay, he was gone. All was right: the numerology, the setting (see W. S. Wilson on Water in the Work of Ray Johnson),

everything was, as planned. As the poet Manley Hopkins opined, “it is the fate man was born for…” and Ray took it in perfect backstroke, it is said. Not being an aficionado of swimming technique, I cannot comment. That he took this last event in hand I can. Man’s Fate and his own, taken in hand, and for that the writers of opera and the fans of “the World’s Most Famous Unknown Artist” will always remember him.

--a letter from FLETCHER COPP