Smokestack Arias

Seattle composer Wayne Horvitz's latest musical tribute to America's labor movement of relates the 1916 Everett Massacre in song-cycle form (soprano plus piano). Seattle union members from the IWW (aka "The Wobblies") came in support of striking mill workers; they were fatally met by police gunfire. Horvitz's storytelling strategy is dreamy reminiscence and reflection rather than you-are-there depiction. This approach is made even dreamier by a few spacy electronic sound collages used as scene-change interludes. Robin Holcomb's texts take the imagined point of view of the women at home who were affected by the tragedy: wives, sisters, daughters, a sheriff's wife, a newspaperman's wife. His 16 gentle Arias are in the American art-song tradition (Barber, Rorem, a dash of Thomson), incorporating rare hints of period music: blues, hymns, protest anthems. Almost none of the score is uptempo; the songs flow along in a range from slow to moderately slow. Maria Mannisto's lovely and pure soprano makes it all touching and absorbing, and her diction is masterful—listening to her, you don't miss a syllable. Dayna Hanson has staged the piece very discreetly; Mannisto shares the space with pianist Cristina Valdez and just a few evocative props: a pile of sawdust, a dish of red water, a box of bullets. GAVIN BORCHERT

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 12, 2 p.m. Starts: Feb. 2. Continues through Feb. 12, 2012

 
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