Wow! Watching Phillip Glass’ opera, Galileo Galilei last weekend was a terrific experience. The music, the singing, the set, the staging – all of it was intriguing, smart, dramatic, feeding the story.
And the story was told backward, which was also wonderful. The ancient Galileo, blind, barely able to move, but with a strong voice, at the very end of his life, with his regrets – all by himself – dies in the ever-expanding universe. For just a short moment.
And then is resurrected so that we can see him recanting his views in an effort to please the unpleasable church authorities, including the Pope – who used to be a close friend. Next we see him reading a letter from his cloistered nun-daughter, Maria Celeste – one of the most moving and beautiful scenes. Then back and back and back to the beginnings of his child curiosity.
The telling is in 10 9-minute segments, with the pope appearing, the church’s pomp and obstinancy on full display. There is a deliciousness to seeing this opera now, when the church as obstacle, full of fear and threat, is once again on full display in our culture. And going backwards, full speed ahead.