The Cave (1993) is the joint work of composer Steve Reich (New York, 1936) and the artist Beryl Korot (New York, 1945) that premiered in Vienna; initially as a standard opera, it is now presented as a two-and-half-hour long video installation, with five television screens and an audio tape recording of the four singers and thirteen instrumentalists involved in the original piece. The libretto is made up of interviews made to Jews and Muslims who come from Palestine and Israel and a group of American Christians, all of them questioned by the figure of Abraham, a character common to all three religions. The question, also turned into the theme and title of the piece, originates from the sacred place known as The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where tradition says the remains of Abraham and his family lie. The text is supplemented with extracts from Genesis, the Qur’an and other holy books.
From a musical standpoint, the lyrical voices echo the respondents’ statements and their songs emulate and allude to the calls of the muezzins and imams, the instrumental parts highlight the expressive power of the spoken phrases, all of which harmonise with the game of images created by Korot. Mastering a repetitive structure - Reich is one of the leading representatives of American Minimalist music, which is primarily intended for achieving a visual impact.
According to Reich, "the result is a picture soundtrack of people who are interviewed". Without wishing to make political lectures, The cave faces up to and contains a double proposal, while trying to avoid controversy. The first is cultural-religious, regarding the possibility of coexistence among believers of different religions and the construction of the self, not from a denial of the other, but from a common mythology. The second is musical, the possible renewal of a genre rooted in traditional values and structures which refuses to modernise. Thus, Reich and Korot introduce journalism and technologies applied to art in the performance of an opera that wants to establish itself as an example of what a twenty-first century opera can be.
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