We don’t review much opera ~ our last one was Colin Stetson’s Sorrow. But Kjartan Sveinsson‘s Der Klang der Offenbarung des Göttlichen (The Explosive Sonics of Divinity) is too solid to ignore. The former Sigur Rós member offers a gorgeous, heartfelt work on double vinyl that recalls ( ) while paving its own way.
Even those who don’t like opera may be moved to tears by the opening piece, which is all orchestra, no choir. Listening is like enjoying an overture that never ends. The emotion increases note by note, stanza by stanza, as the main theme increases in thickness and volume, inexorably moving toward a restrained, tear-stained conclusion. End the album here, and it’s still worth the price. But as they say in the commercials, “Wait, there’s more! If you order now, you’ll also get …”
The next three parts mix orchestra and choir, and reflect their inspiration: Icelandic author Halldór Laxness’ novel World Light. The novel follows the life of a young poet, whose life experiences seek to drain his imagination and murder his dreams. Through it all, the poet yearns to experience the light breaking through the clouds, but often finds beauty only in retrospect:
“Was this perhaps life, then?—to have loved one summer in youth and not to have been aware of it until it was over, some sea-wet footprints on the floor and sand in the prints, the fragrance of a woman, soft loving lips in the dusk of a summer night, sea birds; and then nothing more; gone.”
The choir bears his almighty sadness like a cherished burden. They sorrow and they sing; their faces are cast down, and yet they walk. One imagines a nearly-deserted church, an old Icelandic priest, the comfort of knowing that one has borne the weight of the world through fire, water and stained glass, and has not shattered; that one’s only book, seemingly lost, lives through a memory. This is not joy, but understanding; not hope, but perseverance; and through it all, transcendence. Sveinsson, in conjunction with co-author Ragnar Kjartansson, has created an opera for the ages, a reminder of the nation’s artistic glories during a time of political turmoil. This is the opera’s greatest triumph: that it finds grace in unexpected places, arriving far after the prayers have ended.
This past summer, Sigur Rós toured as a three-piece, with a bombastic set and expansive light show. Admittedly, the pyrotechnics were amazing, but something was missing. Listening to this album, one remembers the explosive sonics of divinity that drew us in, once upon a time. On the one hand, we’re a bit saddened that Sveinsson is now on his own. On the other, we’re overwhelmingly proud. He’s spread his wings and flown toward the light, and the light has taken him in. (Richard Allen)