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26.10.05

New Operas in the News

Jerry Bowles at Sequenza 21 mentioned a new opera that will be performed at Tufts University this spring. Nancy and Tonya: The Opera is -- yes, that's right -- about the figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, who became infamous when the latter's associate clubbed the former's knee. Elizabeth Searle wrote the libretto, and Tufts graduate student Abigail Al Dorry composed the music.

A few days ago, I mentioned (Russian National Orchestra, October 24) the new opera in the works from gazillionaire composer Gordon Getty. It's on Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, and the Russian National Orchestra "premiered" a few excerpts at a private concert in Moscow last week.

Robert Levine's article (7 composers and a 1st-time librettist, September 22) for the New York Times reported on the new opera Seven Attempted Escapes from Silence, premiered at the Berlin Staatsoper, which I should have mentioned last month but didn't. The libretto is by novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, and the music was contributed by seven different composers, sections that were actually staged by seven different directors. This all took place in an unusual venue, the industrial storage facility underneath the Staatsoper, not its stage. Shirley Apthorp's article (Safran Foer's Opera Libretto Gets Mangled in Berlin Production, September 26) for Bloomberg News adds an interesting perpspective to the work. I will see if I can drum up some more reviews, to give a better idea of what it was like.

All I can say about the next one is "Huh?" Tom Service reports in The Guardian (Opera babes, October 25) on Glyndebourne's youth opera project, trying to bring 18- to 30-year-olds to an interest in opera. It's a new touring opera called Tangier Tattoo, and Service spoke with members of a rock band who saw it. The music is by John Lunn, and the libretto is by Stephen Plaice. Service describes it as "a tale of drugs, sex, terrorism and skin decoration, subjects that emerged from focus groups as the most likely to turn on the target audience." How did the rock band react?

The Suffrajets and I pile back into our minibus. Reactions are still mixed. "The singing does my head in," Gemma says, "and I don't understand why they couldn't just speak the words. It would have worked better that way." Claire is still the voice of optimism: "The only thing that didn't work was the music. There weren't any good tunes. If the songs had been really amazing, you'd be like, guns and bikinis and motorbikes and amazing songs! That would have been brilliant." Alex disagrees: "It seemed insulting to my intelligence. It was a bit young for me. I know what real opera is like, and most people my age will know what opera is, and therefore they're going to look at it and think that wasn't the real thing." Vicky says: "They've tried to take things from TV, and things from musicals and films, and put them all together. People don't understand what to make of it."
Toward the end of the article, Service says that "they all agree that they would rather have seen a conventional opera than something they felt was trying to be a film." Hmm, imagine that. Yes, I think opera already has enough shocking material as it is. There is no need to tramp it up, for heaven's sake.

9 comments:

Ariadne said...

Yeah, I saw the news about the Nancy & Tanya opera. Shoot, why not?

Don't know what to make about the Opera Babes program. Seems misguided to me. What they need to be doing with that money is giving 13-18 year old female singers who WANT TO SING OPERA some decent vocal training, in my opinion. Sheesh.

THIS is the opera I'd most like to see staged Callas in New Jersey (ha ha): http://listserv.cuny.edu/Scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind9710e&L=opera-l&T=0&F=&S=&P=9341

And THIS is the opera currently in production that I'd like to go see(Bolshoi's modern Flying Dutchman): http://english.mn.ru/english/issue.php?2004-25-27

(Madame has spoken on opera, and is now retiring to her studio with a cup of herbal tea to practice ... )

Gary Freedman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Time to delete comments. Just don't set your eyes on mine!

Charles T. Downey said...

Anonymous, no need to worry. You are always interesting, if occasionally cantankerous.

Ariadne said...

Did you guys look at those links I posted?

I would like your opinions (ummm... at least I think I do...)!

Charles T. Downey said...

Andrea,
Not yet, but I will. Hopefully.

Garth Trinkl said...

Charles, thanks a million for fitting in world opera updates while also tending to your AMS and teaching duties! I appreciated the "Seven Attempted Escapes from Silence" links which I had been meaning to track down myself but hadn't yet found the time. Thanks also for the Glyndebourne's youth opera project which I will look into later. (I know something about the Berlin Phil's fairly extensive educational programs, including Mark Anthony Turnage's "Blood on the Floor" outreach and production a few years back [Mark A. T.'s younger brother died of substance dependency], but I hadn't followed the Berlin's and Glyndebourne's recent opera outreach efforts. I should have.) Thanks again.

Thanks, Andrea, for the Bolshoi note. The Mariinsky will be bringing Turandot and Parsifal to the Kennedy Center in Feb. in what are fairly modern stagings. Also, I saw a Coq D'Or at the new Moscow Chamber Opera Theater but it was a beautiful traditional staging from Petersburg... And, Happy Birthday, Andrea, late!!

[I recall that the traditional new Bolshoi Chamber Theater cost $85 million or so to build, and that the estimates to restore the big Bolshoi, situated over an underground steam, are $1 billion.]

Ariadne said...

Thank you, thank you, Garth! I always enjoy reading your comments, and learn something new every time.

Mariinsky Turandot and Parsifal should be very interesting; wonder if they'd do them in Russian for us (it's quite a trip!) These stagings are intriguing - old or new, they seem to do them well.

The "cost" (how do they estimate that, if the government is paying for it?) is one thing; but as you know, the TIME IT TAKES is entirely another thing!

Ah, in the Soviet days even building a pre-fab building took an eternity, and was such shoddy workmanship that it began crumbling before it even opened. Hope they did a better job with the Bolshoi projects!

Thanks for the birthday wishes, too, G. : )

Garth Trinkl said...

Andrea, the Mariinsky is trying to be a major international company and I'm sure that the performances will be in Italian and German (they just did a major Ring Cycle, in German, that you probably heard about.) Their most recent productions are all very visually exciting -- both the more avant garde MacBeth they did here, as well as the pair of Mussorgski operas (The Eugene O. was only fair, but their sets were lost to a major fire). I suggest you try to attend one, or both, in February!!

The new Bolshoi Chamber Opera Hall was also exceptionally beautiful and TRADITIONAL!! Tons of white marble and gilt and elabaorate traditional handrailings and chandeliers. The audience, when I attended Coq D-Or, was certainly not international -- rather it appeared the matinee audience was largely children of Moscow's new class -- stylish in an old fashioned way. I actually think it was a closed performance that they just happened to let me attend when I told them that I wanted to hear the new hall. (I also saw two Chaikovsky operas in the big hall in beautiful 1940s stagings. Perhaps you saw these too.)

I trust the new Bolshoi will be solid -- for $1 billion it better be. (Building skills are now international, and some Moscow landmarks are being dissassembled and rebuilt newly just as the were before.)