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11.2.06

New Opera Notes

New Opera on Ionarts:

Pascal Dusapin's New Faust (January 25, 2006)

Tobias Picker, An American Tragedy (December 7, 2005)

Rachel Portman, The Little Prince (November 26, 2005)

Jan van Vlijmen, Thyeste (October 13, 2005)

Isabel Mundry, Ein Atemzug — Die Odyssee (October 7, 2005)

John Adams, Doctor Atomic (October 4, 2005)

Philip Glass, Waiting for the Barbarians (September 14, 2005)

Osvaldo Golijov, Ainadamar (August 2, 2005)

Richard Danielpour, Margaret Garner (July 28, 2005)

Hans Werner Henze, L'Upupa (July 22, 2005)

Philippe Boesmans, Julie (March 24, 2005)

William Banfield and Karren L. Alenier, Gertrude Stein Gets Her Jump On (March 17, 2005)

Scott Wheeler, Democracy (January 29, 2005)
We're always on the lookout for new operas, and here are some we have been reading about lately. First, in what sounds like a fascinating project, Philip Glass has decided to compose an opera about Appomattox, as reported by the Associated Press (Glass to compose Civil War opera, January 12):
Philip Glass will compose an opera about Appomattox, the site of the surrender that ended the Civil War, that will be given its world premiere by the San Francisco Opera in autumn 2007. Christopher Hampton will write the libretto for the opera, said David Gockley, the company's new general director.
Nod to AllAboutOpera.com for the tip. I can't find any more information about it yet. Just as big, perhaps bigger, Ned Rorem's operatic adaptation of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town will be premiered at Indiana University later this month, as reported by Newswise (Ned Rorem’s Opera “Our Town” to Receive World Premiere at IU, January 5):
On Feb. 24 -- almost 68 years to the day that Thornton Wilder's quintessential American drama debuted in Princeton, N.J. -- what legendary composer Aaron Copland and others once imagined will finally become a reality. On that day, Indiana University Opera Theater, the foremost collegiate opera program in the nation, will present the world premiere of Rorem's "Our Town," with libretto by renowned American poet and writer J.D. McClatchy.
Thanks again to AllAboutOpera.com for the tip. The next one is not technically a new opera, but I am interested in John Carbon's opera on the life of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin, which was premiered in 1987. It was staged again at Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, Pa.) last month, as part of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Franklin's birth. I haven't been able to find any reviews.

There is one new opera being premiered right here in Washington this weekend. Composer Andrew Simpson and his wife, classicist Sarah Brown Ferrario, have been working on an operatic adaptation, the Oresteia Project, of the great tragic trilogy of the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus. The first opera, Agamemnon, was premiered here at Catholic University, where the composer and librettist are both professors, in April 2003. You can watch an online video of that premiere performance, which Joseph McLellan reviewed for the Washington Post. The university then presented the second opera, The Libation Bearers in March 2004 (watch the online video). I saw (but did not review) both of them and am looking forward to seeing the completed third opera, The Furies, this evening. That is, if the approaching blizzard does not scuttle that plan. The remaining performances are this evening (February 11, 8 pm) and tomorrow afternoon (February 12, 4 pm).

Michael Jarrell, Galilée, set by Hermann Feuchter, Grand Théâtre de Genève, photograph by Mario del CurtoLastly, Michael Jarrell has made a new opera, Galilée, on the life of Galileo, with a libretto adapted from the play Leben des Galilei by Bertolt Brecht, which was recently premiered at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. Jean-Louis Validire reviewed the opera («Galilée», un opéra qui tourne, February 4) for Le Figaro (my translation):
Long ago, Pierre Boulez thought that we "should burn the opera houses." That is no longer the feeling of Boesmans, Dusapin, and Michael Jarrell who each have recently written new works for this genre and met with public approval. In Geneva, Jarrell turned to Bertolt Brecht's play Leben des Galilei when creating his own libretto that preserved the play's dramatic force while at the same time molding it into something more fluid. The playwright's fifteen scenes are cut down to only twelve, and the poems that create the "distancing" that is the keystone of the Brechtian theater have disappeared.

Jarrell owes his success to, among other things, the fact that he reunites operatic writing, precisely without distancing, with its rules, the unity and dramatic coherence of the subject. By choosing the traditional voices, from baritone to soprano and including the countertenor that gives a welcome hysterical color to the role of the inquisitor, he takes up the genre's classic constraints. Such a choice does not at signify an abusive simplification of the musique or a return to neoclassical writing but a profound reflection on the interaction among singing, declamation, and a harmonic discourse that is far removed from any dogmatism. The results are at times poignant.
Pierre Gervasoni also wrote a review ("Galilée", un opéra qui ne tourne pas rond, January 29) for Le Monde, and Michel Parouty (Et pourtant, elle tourne... : GALILÉE de Michael Jarrell, January 30) for Les Échos.

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