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Culture Watch: 'Selma Jezkova' by way of Bjork

July 27, 2011 | 10:45 am

Selma Selma Jezkovà

(DaCapo DVD)

Selma Jezková is the title character, played by Björk, in Lars von Trier’s film “Dancer in the Dark.” The Danish composer Poul Ruders has turned that film into a melodramatic opera, which will be given its U.S. premiere Friday night as part of the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. The production will be imported by Royal Danish Opera, which premiered the opera last year, now released on DVD.

It’s a strange transference from Björk’s music (and three songs from “Sound of Music”) to that of Ruders’ edgy, dark Danish modernism, which is here in grim conflict with gloomy neo-Romanticism and ironic sentimentality. At 70 minutes, the opera is half the length of the film. Context is replaced by intense focus on Selma, a Czech immigrant to the U.S. who sacrifices her life to save the eyesight of her young son. It is a cruel, heartless opera, made riveting and bearable by Ruders’ score and Ylva Kihlberg’s powerful performance as Selma.

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-- Mark Swed

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