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Monday, January 22, 2007
Reviews, January 22
The Carbon Copy Building by Michael Gordon, David Land and Julia Wolfe, illustrated by Ben Katchor
The Carbon Copy Building is a contemporary opera, contrasting the lives of the occupants of two office buildings; the palacial and historically significant Palatine building, and the run-down Palaver building. Both buildings were constructed from the same blue-prints, hence the Palaver is a "carbon copy" of the Palatine. With a small cast of four players, all in multiple roles, and four instruments, the opera illustrates the ways in which the lives of the people who work in the two distinct buildings intersect and mirror each other.
Musically, the work contains a strong element of dissonance and heavy repetition of chords and lyrics. Tonally, it works very well, echoing the drudgery that occupies so much of the time of the Palaver's occupants, as well as their bleak surroundings. In contrast, the music associated with the Palantine is more vibrant and upbeat, while at the same time the characters who inhabit it reveal themselves to be almost insufferably shallow and preoccupied with appearance. Character is almost all in this work, as expressed though word and music, as the emphasis here is on establishing mood and not plot.
Ben Katchor, illustrator of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, provides the illustrations for the libretto and designed the front and rear projections which provided the setting for the staged production, and his angular, geometric art works well in matching the tone of the piece, and his color work here adds much to the visual presentation of the two buildings.
The Carbon Copy Building, in CD form, has the feel of a well-intentioned experiment. It's quality work, but hearing it alone, even accompanied by the illustrated libretto, makes it clear that this is primarily a performance piece, and must actually be seen to be appreciated to its fullest. It is available from Cantaloupe Music.
Roy and Al by Ralf Konig
Roy and Al is the latest English language translation of one of German cartoonist Ralf Konig's books. His work often takes the form of humorous examinations of gay men's lives, and in this book he presents the relationship between fat slob mutt Roy and high-strung purebred terrier Al, two very dissimilar dogs brought together because their masters are in love. Through the eyes of good-natured Roy and bitchy Al, Konig skewers drag queens, fag hags, diva worshippers and what passes for gay culture.
But Konig doesn't just focus on gay men in his satire. Pretentious dog breeders and the sometimes difficult relationships between people and their pets are strongly satirized as well. In contrast to their usual depiction in cartoons as good and faithful servants, Konig also portrays dogs in a more realistic and human recognizable manner as self-important twerps who demand to be the center of attention.
Konig is a master cartoonist and humorist, and his work is always worth seeking out. Very little of it is both in English and in print. This edition has been released by Canadian publisher Arsenal Pulp Press in a soft-cover, color album format, and is available through Amazon Canada, as well as many fine Canadian bookstores, I'm sure.