Philip Glass' opera from 2009 explores the life of scientist Johannes Kepler though a series of dramatic scenes with two hours of Glass' music. Kepler in many ways hearkens back to Glass' portrait operas of the early 1980s and continues the composers interest in scientists after having also written operas on Einstein and Galileo. The opera premiered at the Landestheater Linz in 2009 as part of Linz 09, the European Cultural Capital, and continues the amazing 30 year collaboration between Glass and the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, the music director of both the Landestheater Linz and its orchestra, the Bruckner Orchester Linz who has also recorded Glass' music extensively for the Orange Mountain Music label including Glass Symphonies 6, 7, and 8, and Glass' large scale opera The Voyage which was originally written for the Metropolitan Opera. Kepler is a refreshing return to large scale symphonic writing for the opera house. Recent Glass operas including Waiting for the Barbarians and Appomattox carry more dialogue and intimate narrative scenes whereas Kepler is a musical dedication to the life of this great scientists - triumphs and human flaws. As Glass states: "Kepler was a man with his mind in the clouds and his feet in the mud." This Orange Mountain Music recording was made in 2010 from live performances during its extensive run in Linz, and is the world premiere recording. Kepler is sung in German and Latin and contains the full libretto with English translation in the deluxe two disc digipack.
Glass always sets out on his musical journeys from the same place, and his score begins familiarly, with his trademark musical figures. But where he winds up is another story. Kepler is his most chromatic, complex, psychological score. I sense, on the American opera scene, a ho-hum attitude to Glass, based on the assumption that he always does the same thing. Most important companies have by now done one or maybe two (though, L.A., none) of his operas. The older works are favored over the new. Nothing is planned anywhere in the U.S. at the moment. Critics don t go out of their way to keep up. Europe pays more attention. Linz is a town of 200,000, and its performances of Kepler (which runs through early January) serve as a tourist attraction and sell out. Linz knows what we don t that Glass, following Kepler's lead, understands that there really may be a music of the spheres. Kepler is a wise, major opera. --Los Angeles Times 11-19-2009
Perhaps the most radical thing about Kepler is its presentation in front of a young, mostly secular and liberal audience in Brooklyn of a hero who is both genuinely scientific and genuinely religious. In our culture, today s great scientists are imagined to be wholly secular, even atheistic, which is simply not the case. The chorus sings, By Him, through Him, within Him is everything, and that everything includes Kepler s scientific discoveries as well as his prayers. And there s no sense that Mr. Glass has a problem with this or thinks that we in the 21st century have some better handle on the truth of the matter. There s something refreshing about the composer s willingness to depict a belief in God as meaningful and not a belief that s potentially hip like Taoism or Buddhism, but good, old-fashioned Lutheranism. Something that doesn t get said about Mr. Glass enough, but that may in the end be one of the real distinctions between him and other composers popular with a contemporary, liberal audience, is that he always gives religious belief its due, without condescension. It s one of the many pleasures of his surprisingly moving new opera, which will hopefully return to New York soon, perhaps alongside Galileo. --New York Observer 11-24-2010