- Angst, choral opera
"Angst," Christian Jost's existential opera in German for soloists, choir, chamber ensemble, and film, has been successful in the theater, but on CD it seems to be little more than a long, dismal cantata with a sketchy storyline based on a tragic mountain-climbing accident. Without staging, characters, or action, even of a stylized nature, there is nothing obviously operatic or even dramatic about the fragmented libretto or the monotonous music, except perhaps for some degree of psychological manipulation. Jost's libretto is subtitled, "Five gateways of a journey into the interior of angst," so one may be justified in thinking that the opera is best understood as a sequence of images -- mostly of falling -- that are intended to play on the mind and emotions as an internal narrative about fear. The music is relentlessly brooding, dark, and austere, and Jost's jagged, droning score certainly conveys tense and apprehensive moods; but provoking these disturbed feelings hardly amounts to a profound musical achievement, and it is not at all certain that they make this work compelling or even interesting. Ultimately, "Angst" is a brooding meditation on the void that may instill dread and pity in some listeners, but it is a disappointment for its static presentation, prolonged murkiness, and lack of catharsis. The Berlin Radio Choir and the ensemble MusikFabrik, conducted by Simon Halsey, are apparently confident and accurate in their performance, and the live recording sounds almost as clear and polished as a studio session. However, this specialized work is only recommended for devotees of avant-garde opera and experimental theater.