My first foray at BAM’s new Fishman Space was ELSEWHERE. Described as an opera for cello, it was the sort of living artwork that washes over you, its individual elements inseparable from general sensation, even with one of them, the cello, plainly at the core. The cellist Maya Beiser cut an imposing figure vocally and physically, and her musicianship crossed a diverse terrain, from the classical to the avant garde to the world musical.
The text she spoke was a poem by the surrealist Henri Michaux, merged with an evocation of the tale of Lot’s wife sung by Helga Davis; and augmented by references to abused and oppressed women including a teenaged stoning victim in Somalia. One knew these references more by the program notes than through the textual clarity of the performance itself, which was more in homage to the themes and memory of the persons than about them narratively.
Robert Woodruff’s direction layered most of the imagery on, behind and through diaphanous front and rear scrims. We saw rows of institutional beds, and women upon them, and words and speakers male and female moving across and through the layered air. Eventually, the women rolled under the front scrim and onto the slag heap on the apron of the stage, like bagged and discarded corpses; and Beiser sliced through a seam of the scrim with a blade, disinterred a new cello as though from a grave, and brought the whole impressionistic evening to an end. It was a performance abstract in its aesthetic and concrete in the emotions it evoked. Beiser is an artist to be paid attention to in the future.