Handke and Birtwistle

I must say I’m quite dismayed by the reaction to Peter Handke’s The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other at the National Theatre.  While of course not all responses have been negative, for the most part it’s been greeted with incomprehension and even some hostility.  The extraordinary musical qualities of the work have been largely unrecognised and unappreciated by the critics and public alike.  Why do people have such difficulty with abstraction when it comes to drama?  Nobody pulls out their hair and screams "but what does it all MEAN?" when they hear Mozart.

Mind you, we have a rash of Harrison Birtwistle operas about to hit London, so maybe we’re in for more of the same.  I’ve been watching on Youtube the scenes that greeted the revival of his Gawain in 1994, when people actually picketed the Royal Opera House with placards, protesting against modernism in music.  Unbelievable.  I acknowledge that both Handke and Birtwistle produce "difficult" work that makes you work a bit but they are also among the most exciting artists of today in their respective fields.

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