I know you read the title and said, “I thought we cancelled Kanye.” But, wait! Take a couple of deep breaths, set you bias aside and listen to me when I say “A Kanye West Opera, Nebuchadnezzar” was an intriguing display of artistic expression.
After waiting two hours for the show to begin, audience members and Tidal viewers looked to a stage full of performers including the Sunday Service choir dressed in off-white sweatpants and sweatshirts. Standing out was Sheck Wes dressed in a shiny blue poncho with pants to match. The stage was full, but the performers had plenty of space to act out the story being narrated by West. The Chicago native didn’t grace the stage until after the final act to bow with his crew. Nonetheless, his presence was still felt belting through the speakers of The Hollywood Bowl.
If you haven’t read the Book of Daniel in a while, or if you’re like myself and have never heard of Nebuchadnezzar or his story, here’s a little background. Nebuchadnezzar II is known as being the second and greatest king of Babylonia during the Chaldean dynasty. According to a press release issued on Nov 21st, the opera was to tell “the biblical story from the Book of Daniel of the Babylonian king who transitions from wicked, imperious, self-declared ruler to a true believer who finds salvation in his faith.”
The press release also mentioned how West felt this was his way of combining two worlds he loves. “Nebuchadnezzar brings together elements from different worlds, including opera, fine art, modern dance and gospel music, to create an innovative performance structure. West’s sound is the bridge between these art forms.”
I think this opera was blended well! The goal of bringing two worlds together and putting it on display for a group of people who aren’t sure of what to expect was achieved. West reads directly from the book live while the performers act out the story in bright lights. The choir and band performed songs such as Mo Bamba, Wolves, Say You Will, Our King, Sunshine, and Wash Us In the Blood. I think Wes did a great job performing his role. At times his facial expressions were over exaggerated, along with the other performers, but I think this was an artistic decision.
Although, I did enjoy watching the show and will probably watch it again. There were moments where the show fell flat. My biggest issue with the show was it felt rushed and it was missing it’s wow factor. You can clearly see performers looking to each other to see where they should be standing, or what they were supposed to be doing. There was a moment in the show where West had to repeat “fell upon his face” three times before Wes realized that was his cue to fall to the ground. The climactic part of the show didn’t give me the feeling that I wanted. It’s hard to explain because I was entertained, but I felt like I wasn’t entertained enough.
By Triniti Maye, Sophomore, Saint Xavier University