Philip Glass was not at the first performances of “Kepler,” his opera about the German mathematician and astronomer that opened here at the Spoleto Festival USA on May 26. But he flew in for the closing performance of the run, on Saturday. And while he was in town, he sat for an hourlong public interview and an impromptu performance at the Dock Street Theater on Saturday afternoon, as part of the festival’s “Music in Time” series.
Mr. Glass’s interlocutor was John Kennedy, the festival’s resident conductor, who led the finely polished Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in the opera. And Mr. Glass, who has a dry but pointed sense of humor, was in good form. At one point, when a cellphone in the theater chirped and Mr. Kennedy stopped to remind audience members to turn off their phones, Mr. Glass quickly added, “I turned mine off.” Talking about the many performances that have been arranged to celebrate his 75th birthday, this season, Mr. Glass responded to Mr. Kennedy’s guess that all this must give him great hope for the future by saying, “I wouldn’t go that far.”
And having said early in the discussion that he wrote operas about people he admired, he mentioned that one reason he chose Kepler as a subject – apart from an early interest in science and a real fascination with Kepler’s work and personality – was that the opera was written for the Austrian city of Linz, which wanted a work about one of its historically significant residents. “And the only other one,” he said, “was Hitler.”
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