Circus Days and Nights review – Philip Glass’s latest sees spectacle triumph over substance

Live-streamed from Malmö Opera, Sweden
Glass’s new circus-set music-theatre work, based on the writings of poet Robert Lax, is sensationally staged but the music remains earthbound

Philip Glass calls his latest music-theatre work – his 30th by my reckoning – a “circus opera”. Staged as a collaboration between Malmö Opera and Cirkus Cirkör, Circus Days and Nights is based on the life and work of the American poet Robert Lax (1915-2000), who spent the last four decades of his life in Greece, but who in the late 1940s had worked as a clown and juggler in the Cristiani family’s circus.

That experience provided the material for many of Lax’s poems – he saw the circus as a metaphor for God’s creation – and the opera takes its title from his final collection, published in the year of his death. But the libretto, by David Henry Hwang (a regular Glass collaborator), and Tilde Björfors, the artistic director of Cirkus Cirkör, is based on the book that first established Lax as an important voice in American literature, The Circus of the Sun. The 1959 publication traces the course of a day in the life of a travelling circus.

Continue reading…