In ‘Sun & Sea,’ Econihilism Goes to the Beach

Solar & Sea, at BAM.
Picture: Richard Termine/BAM

Watching another person’s trip has gone, up to now two years, from tough to excruciating. That’s one of many sharp little knives wielded by Solar & Sea, the long-duration opera at BAM’s Fishman Area this weekend. For the five-hour manufacturing (when you enter, you’ll be able to keep or go as you please), the stage has been reworked into a sensible seaside with 25 tons of sand unfold from wall to wall. To see it, the viewers should go to the balcony stage of the small theater and stand excessive above the stage on all 4 sides, like guests in an working theater or technicians within the flies. We have now to hold enviously over a railing to see the seaside beneath, and there’s one thing about that posture — so completely different from the theatergoer’s traditional princely seated place — that makes us seem to be poor relations, wallflowers who need to listen in on the pleasures of others.

The Lithuanian director and set designer Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė has packed the seaside with our bodies, all studying and snacking and whiling the time away, a row of deck chairs forming one nook, a seaside umbrella tossed into one other. 13 are vocalists; the remainder are supernumeraries able to mill round and kick sand. The forged’s conduct, naturalistic and continuously altering (at the same time as Vaiva Grainytė’s libretto itself does repeat on an hour-long loop), operates at a gradual, vacation-day tempo. A pair discusses whether or not it’s time to go within the water. Kids chatter and play. A canine is taken (dragged) for a stroll. And because the folks laze on their pastel towels, additionally they typically sing.

The songs are often brief glimpses right into a sun-drowsy particular person’s thoughts: a person enthusiastic about how he met his lover, or a workaholic anxious about whether or not exhaustion is definitely an actual concern. Grainytė’s lyrics have been translated into English, nevertheless it’s nonetheless difficult understanding the voices as they comply with Lina Lapelyte’s unmelodic, hopscotch compositions. Typically the language is crystal clear — a person remembers the volcano that interrupted his trip plans, and we hear every phrase — different instances we have to test the printed libretto to grasp. Lapelyte’s sounds are unfailingly chimelike and calm, so it comes as a shock that a number of the ideas are heated, even frightened. “Our swimsuits are filling up with algae!” the entire room sings in refrain, complaining that the ocean is popping inexperienced, blooming with eutrophication. Because the sound washes over you, it’s straightforward to overlook that the world surrounding these solar worshippers is poisoned, willful, inhospitable: “You’re strongly suggested to remain onshore! You shouldn’t go away your kids unobserved!” The music’s dazed laziness infects them and infects us, too, so we will’t at all times comprehend these warnings.

Initially, Solar & Sea was a fee for the Lithuanian pavilion on the 2019 Venice Biennale. In Venice, a metropolis actually swamped by cruise ships, the issue of the Trip Industrial Advanced would certainly have been a pointy one. Time has solely honed that edge: The Biennale efficiency was almost a 12 months earlier than pandemic-era seaside holidays turned … what? Out of attain? Irresponsible? The solely accountable type of trip? As they constructed the manufacturing, Barzdžiukaitė and her crew have been clearly enthusiastic about the best way “leisure” comprises and erases the proof of the disasters taking place throughout us, and the intervening crises have solely made their factors extra related.

The joke of the title Solar & Sea is that we aren’t actually seeing both one. We see sand, we appear to sense warmth, however the solar and the ocean are themselves basically “offstage” — they’re the temptations, pressures, and threats the folks take without any consideration. The ocean is stuffed with riptides and whirlpools — “Acidy waves, ivory foam” a lady sings, telling us about her ex-husband who drowned — and the libretto begins and finishes with a lady singing about sunscreen. “Safety for hypersensitive pores and skin,” she sings, studying the label, and our minds drift from melanoma screenings to Hawaii and Indonesia, locations the place sure kinds of sunscreen are killing the coral reefs. Jealousy turns to revulsion: All of the teeming life onstage begins to shift, below your weary eyes, into the wriggling life on a microscope slide, smashed flat by our faraway gaze. The exaggerated size of the night is itself a part of the present’s indictment — it provides us loads of time to develop sick of people and their litter.

The present is about questioning pleasure, and I feel it’s intentional that it form of ruins your night time. Definitely, your individual bodily discomfort turns into a part of the present after about half an hour (relying in your lumbar well being); your skill to extract story, drama, and intrigue from micro-events will inform how you’re within the occasions beneath. The music is spare, turning lush solely through the collective choral moments when the entire room rings. And the extra the lyrics remind you of every thing that’s fallacious on the planet, the extra the sight of such extravagant inactivity raises your hackles. Maybe this isn’t simply an opera? Perhaps it’s aversion remedy for our leisure-obsessed technology? You enter the present to a picture of enviable ease — and then you definately go away when you’ll be able to’t bear it anymore.

Solar & Sea is on the BAM Fishman via September 26. | In ‘Solar & Sea,’ Econihilism Goes to the Seashore


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