‘Book of Longing’ leaves feeling of longing

Stanford Lively Arts kicked off its 2007-08 season Tuesday night in Memorial Auditorium with the West Coast premiere of “Book of Longing,” a composition by Philip Glass based on poetry by Leonard Cohen. Both artists attended the highly anticipated program.

The 100-minute performance offered up a sometimes funny, sometimes profound, sometimes perplexing mix of music, singing, spoken word and imagery focusing on Cohen’s themes of love, lust, disappointment and reflections on life.

Glass conducted and played keyboards; his ensemble of musicians playing saxophone, oboe, cello, bass and keyboards created some gorgeous instrumental solos (the highlight of the performance), while the vocalists’ efficiently spanned classical and new music in their interpretations of the nearly two dozen “songs” that make up the piece. The prologue and epilogue featured compelling voiceovers by Cohen himself.

Illustrations by Cohen, mostly portraits, projected at the back of the stage made for a dense melange of sounds and sights that didn’t truly come together as a cohesive unit after seeing and hearing it just one time.

While individual moments of the work spurred myriad thoughts and memories, the piece also raised lots of questions, and, in the end, a feeling of a need for resolution.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

Just Posted

ose Pak and Willie Brown at an event in 2014. 
Rose Pak and Willie Brown at an event in 2014.
Willie and Rose: An alliance for the ages

How the Mayor and Chinatown activist shaped San Francisco, then and now

San Francisco supervisors are considering plans to replace trash cans — a “Renaissance” garbage can is pictured on Market Street — with pricey, unnecessary upgrades. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco must end ridiculous and expensive quest for ‘pretty’ trash cans

SF’s unique and pricey garbage bins a dream of disgraced former Public Works director

Giants right fielder Mike Yastrzemski is pictured at bat on July 29 against the Dodgers at Oracle Park; the teams are in the top spots in their league as the season closes. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
With playoff positions on the line, old rivalries get new life

Giants cruised through season, Dodgers not far behind

Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controversy during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

Drivers gathered to urge voters to reject an initiative that would exempt Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy companies from state labor laws, in San Francisco in October 2020. (Jim Wilson/New York Times)
What’s the role of unions in the 21st century?

As membership declines in California, economic inequality increases

Most Read