Two singers – tenor Russell Thomas and mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford – and three "invisible" actors in black perform on an elevated platform behind the orchestra, sandwiched between two screens with projections. The perfect synchronization of computerized graphics and choreography brings Mahler's masterpiece into fantastic reality.
A colossal wine glass empties its contents before shrinking to a size from which the tenor can drink, providing a fit representation for the first of "Das Lied's" six poems, "The Drinking Song of Earth's Sorrow." Thomas sings first from what appears to be inside the mouth of a horn, then from the vantage point of standing atop a crow's nest of a ship that swoops across the hall, bearing Mahler's visage on the prow. In the final moments of "Das Lied," the walls of Walt Disney Concert Hall glow and burst with three pulses of deep blue light, as the music thins to an end and Mumford sings the closing words 'ewig… ewig…' (forever… forever…). Her haunting voice drags each syllable longer, knowing that the music flows into eternity and that the notion of time is merely a mortal construct.
The trip to watch Los Angeles Philharmonic: Dudamel Conducts Mahler's Song of the Earth was organized by Visions & Voices as part of their Experience L.A. series, an initiative for USC students to experience Los Angeles's world-class cultural landscape. For more information, visit http://visionsandvoices.usc.edu/.