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17.8.04

Richard Rodney Bennett's Opera

The comments on Opera in the 20th Century keep coming. I'll update the list in a couple days. In the meantime, here is something else to chew on. This article (Bold opera draws stars to rural nook, August 13) by Paul Smart for the Christian Science Monitor concerns the revival at Glimmerglass Opera of another opera I hadn't thought about for my class, Richard Rodney Bennett's The Mines of Sulphur (1965). Joanna Keller's article (Is There a Masterpiece in the House?, July 18) for the New York Times tells the story of how Glimmerglass ended up doing this opera:

Last August, the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y., suddenly found itself short an opera for the coming — now current — season. Stephen Hartke, who had been commissioned to write one, informed the company that the music would not be finished on time. Since opera productions are typically planned three years in advance, the company had already hired the director, the designers and the singers. In searching for a replacement, they had something very specific in mind: a contemporary work that would fit the singers and the creative team already under contract.

Stewart Robertson, the company's music director, remembered an opera he had seen many years before, "The Mines of Sulphur" by Richard Rodney Bennett. It was given its premiere at Sadler's Wells in London in 1965. The production then toured, and Mr. Robertson, at 17, saw it in his hometown, Glasgow. "I can still envision the wonderfully gloomy set of that English country house," Mr. Robertson said recently. "And as the production began, I found myself transfixed. The libretto is a real page-turner. The score is sensuous, colorful, glittering and skillful. I've never forgotten the impact of that opera."
There's only one more performance to catch, on August 22: road trip, anyone?

The bulk of the CSMonitor article is about James Maddalena, who is playing a role that doesn't actually require much singing. As the author fills in some background on Maddalena's career, he drops another title, Stewart Wallace's Harvey Milk, which I have not heard yet either.

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