Musical Version of Lax’s Poems Performed on the Edge of War

The Riga Project Choir performing in Daugavpils, Latvia.
(Photographs © Jackie Smith)

In early October, a group called The Riga Project Choir gave three performances in Latvia of “The Arc in the Sky,” composer Kile Smith’s choral cycle based on Robert Lax’s poetry. According to the RPC website, “The choir is comprised of former members of Latvia’s top professional and amateur choirs, who now work primarily in other fields.” Smith reports that this was the choir’s first performance of a substantial American composition and the first presentation of his choral cycle in Europe.

Two of the concerts took place at the National Library of Latvia in Riga, while the third was performed at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Daugavpils, in a heavily Russian ethnic area near the Belarus border. It soothes the soul to think of Lax’s poetry being sung so close to a war zone.

The concerts, sponsored in part by the US embassy in Latvia, were scheduled before Covid hit, which means before the war in Ukraine began. In another example of Laxian fortuity, they were postponed twice, allowing them to take place when the area most needed a Lax-like vision of peace.

Kile Smith speaks to the choir during a rehearsal for his Lax-based work.
The choir’s director, Christopher Walsh Sinka, studied choral conducting under Donald Nally, the director of The Crossing, who commissioned Smith’s piece. Sinka lives in Riga now with his Latvian wife. Smith and his wife Jackie were able to attend two of the performances.

Previously Unreleased Robert Lax Documentary on YouTube Now

Image from “Robert Lax — Word & Image

A few weeks ago, an older film called “Robert Lax — Word & Image” was posted to a “Michael Lastnite” YouTube channel. As I noted on p. 356 in Pure Act, Lastnite, a young man from Passumpsic, Vermont, began issuing cheap print versions of some of Lax’s unpublished poems in 1983, producing over two dozen in the next three years. Eventually, he “branched into sound recordings and then videos before filming interviews with Lax and many who knew him for a planned documentary.”

That documentary, completed in 1987 (with extensive research and interview assistance from Lax’s longtime friend Judy Emery) was never released. Before now, you had to travel to the Lax archives at St. Bonaventure University to see it. It’s easy to understand why: The images are blurry and, overall, it’s clearly the work of someone still learning the filmmaking craft.

Even so, the film is worth seeing. It shows Lax reading several of his poems and includes interviews with Lax himself; his sister Gladys; his two most important publishers, Emil Antonucci and Bernhard Moosbrugger; and others who knew him. There are a few shots of Patmos, too, as well as images from the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie’s exhibit of Lax’s work in 1985 (called Robert Lax: Abstract Poetry).

You can view the hour-long film by clicking here.

The same YouTube channel offers several audios of Lax reading his poetry, but the recordings are extremely poor, with Lax’s lovely voice distorted. They are best avoided. However, there is one other video on the channel: another hour-long presentation, that features shots of the Stuttgart show and of Lax reading. Again, the images are blurry, but the sound is good, giving you a chance to hear Lax’s voice as it truly sounded.

Two More Videos Based on Robert Lax Poems

Video artist Susanne Weigner has produced several short, award-winning videos from Robert Lax poems. One of her latest ones, called “moments,” was recently part of a show in Taipei, Taiwan, curated by a group based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lax’s words are getting around!

Another Weigner-Lax videopoem, called “contemplation is watching” took first prize in the 2019 Atticus Review Videopoem Contest. You can watch it below:

Audio Version of PURE ACT Released on Audible Today!

TODAY’S THE DAY the audio version of my book, Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax, is being released on Audible! If you click here, you can listen to a short sample.

I’m excited my book will be available to people who need or prefer to listen rather than read, but it’s strange to hear someone else read words I wrote about my own experiences.

Actor Joe Knezevich Will Read the Audio Version of PURE ACT

I just found out an actor named Joe Knezevich is doing the reading for the forthcoming audio version of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax.

Here’s a link to Joe’s website, which includes trailers showing him in movies and commercials as well as snippets from audio books he’s done: http://www.joeknezevich.com/demo.html. Among his many credits is a recurring role on the long-running TV series The Vampire Diaries.

Joe has a great voice. I’m excited he’s doing the book.

Short New Video about Robert Lax and the Circus

This past spring, Cirkus Cirkör, the Swedish circus company that co-produced Philip Glass’s new opera, “Circus Days and Nights,” based on Robert Lax’s circus poems, asked me to be help with a video introducing Lax to its audience. The video won’t be released until dates for the opera’s upcoming world tour are ready to be announced, but Cirkus Cirkör has given me permission to give Lax fans a sneak peak.

To watch the video, click here.

It’s Wonderful!: Don’t Miss the Chance to Live Stream the New Philip Glass Circus Opera

I just watched the live stream of the premiere of new Philip Glass circus opera based on Robert Lax’s poems. Wow! It is a wonderful show! If you haven’t bought tickets for one of the performances, you should do so now. It runs through June 13, with all of the shows live streamed for just $12. You’ll never be able to see this show again for that price. If you love Lax, Glass, the circus, opera, theater, spectacle, life, order your ticket now: https://www.malmoopera.se/circus-days-and-nights-in-english

Trailer: A Glimpse of the Wonderful New Philip Glass-Robert Lax Opera

A trailer for Philip Glass’s new opera, “Circus Days and Nights,” based on Robert Lax’s poems, just came out. It gives a exciting first glimpse at the show. Just click below.

Tickets for a live streaming of the opera are still available. It runs May 29-Jun 13. For show information and ticket ordering, click here.

Buy Your Ticket to a Live Streaming of the new Philip Glass Opera “Circus Days and Nights” Now!

The new Philip Glass opera “Circus Days and Nights,” based on Robert Lax’s poetry, will be live-streamed starting with its premiere on May 29. The premiere is sold out, but you can still get tickets to other shows.

To order tickets (which cost approximately $12 US) and read more about the show, click here.

Cristiani Videos to Whet Your Appetite for the Upcoming Philip Glass-Robert Lax Circus Opera

Poking around on YouTube today, I found these two old blurry videos of the Cristiani circus family, the second of which I’ve posted before.

The Cristianis, of course, are the stars of Robert Lax’s poetry cycles The Circus of the Sun and Mogador’s Book, the basis for the Philip Glass opera “Circus Days and Nights,” which will premiere in a live-streamed show from the Malmö Opera building on May 29.

I’ll be posting more about the opera in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, here’s a link to more information about it, including how to get tickets for one of the live-streamed shows. Stay tuned.