(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 12/22.)
They sing, in German or in the kind of bar-by-bar literal translation opera coaches use; they sing solo, duet, three-part harmony, or batting phrases back and forth like vaudevillians. Some numbers are trashed, some handled reverentially, some analyzed, and a few skipped altogether. Around its midpoint, the evening semi-morphs from a raffish contemporary Schubertiad into a half-spoof version of the real thing, with the trio zipping in and out of the roles of a dead-earnest Schubert and all the pals who gathered around him at the piano. The life Schubert infused into his songs is the show's substance; the human value of song is its theme. Yet its approach is clownish, informal, disaffected—the opposite of self-involved Romantic pomposity. And Schubert survives unscathed, mainly because, instead of trying, condescendingly, to make classical music fun, Three Pianos makes fun classical music.
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