ALLEN & WALLACE SHAWN: The Music Teacher – Soloists/3 Pianos/Tomothy Long, conductor – Bridge

by | Jul 4, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

ALLEN SHAWN: The Music Teacher – Sarah Wolfson (Aeola)/ Jeffrey Picon (Alcimedes)/ Jason Forbach (Chronilos)/ Rebecca Robbins (vocalist)/ Elisa Cordova, Kristin Knutson, Lauren Jelencovich (Servant Girls and Students)/ Derek Basthemer, Ross Benoliel, Stefanie Nava, Kristina Valada-Vlars (Students)/ Parker Posey (Jane)/ Wallace Shawn (Mr. Smith)/ Halley Wegryn Gross (Student)/ Elizabeth Berkley (Stewardess)/ Bart Feller, flute/ Steven D. Hartman, clarinet/ Lino Gomez, sax/ Whitney LaGrange, violin/ Maxine Neuman, cello/ Troy L. Rinker Jr., bass/ Lloyd P. Ariola, Carol Wong, pianos, celeste/ Allen Shawn, piano and percussion/ Timothy Long, conductor and piano – Bridge 9248, 77:01 *** [Distr. by Albany]:

This strange little singspiel is the brainchild of the brothers Shawn, composer Allen and librettist Wallace (yes, of Princess Bride fame, and many others). Apparently, according to the notes, they both have long and aged histories dating back to childhood when they often collaborated on various musical projects, and this particular work had its genesis in the early eighties. I am not sure what to think about it, as the story is weird (involving a music teacher who gets involved with a student of his 20 years earlier, after she suggests that the two of them, along with her husband Jim, write an opera), and not a little vulgar (Jane watches Mr. Smith masturbating in the woods, he has sexual liaisons with her and a rather gratuitous hookup with a bellman in a hotel). Jane and Mr. Smith feel awkward towards one another, and then in the end, after the denouement of a final might together, resolve the discomfort about being around one another, breakfasting together, going back to school, and he conducting her in the school chorus.

There is a lot of dialog and narration, which is needed to make any sense of what seems like a pointless and rather soap-opera-ish story. What I think is missing in this are the visuals; the few pictures in the booklet have cast members looking like participants in a Greek chorus. Perhaps seeing all of this unfold on stage might indeed bring a little illumination to work. Certainly just listening to it leaves one wondering what in the world is going on, for despite some really enchanting and melodious music (in several different styles), it fails to convey in any sensate reality what the emotive content of this piece is supposed to be about.

The theater “The New Group” is responsible for bringing this to light in 2006, and I sincerely hope it went well. Obviously someone at Bridge thought it worthwhile enough to memorialize it on silver disc, but I think a DVD of the production would be more worthwhile, and certainly more comprehensible. Recommended only for those wishing to go out on a limb, artistically speaking. But the music is quite nice, and this is very well sung, said, and recorded.

— Steven Ritter

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