I try to steer clear of press hype, but I have to call your attention to last weekend’s Wall Street Journal. The online version is subscription-only, but you may be able to access this link. If not, here’s the pertinent excerpt from The Best of the New Operas by Heidi Waleson:
The 30-odd operas on that “hear again” list run the gamut of subject and style. Some are strictly narrative, like Carlisle Floyd’s “Cold Sassy Tree”; others, like Luciano Berio’s “Un Re in Ascolto,” layer and juxtapose events nonchronologically. In Kaija Saariaho’s “L’amour de loin,” everything takes place in the minds of the three protagonists; John Adams’s “Nixon in China” reimagines a historical event. Astor Piazzolla’s “María de Buenos Aires” is based on the tango; William Bolcom’s “A Wedding” mixes in popular music styles; Salvatore Sciarrino’s bizarre “Luci Mie Traditrici” relies as much on silence as it does on sound. John Musto’s “Volpone” is a quicksilver comedy of musical and textual jokes; Olivier Messiaen’s “Saint Francois d’Assise” is a slow-building, ecstatic vision; Tobias Picker’s “Emmeline” hurtles relentlessly toward tragedy.
What each one has is a distinctive musical voice that explores the subject in a way that words alone could not and skillful text and dramaturgy that let that voice speak. This adds up to real theater. It’s not enough to take a famous novel and make its characters sing, an increasingly popular choice among composers. That solution may provide a structure and a marketing hook, but if the characters aren’t singing for a reason, all you’re getting is a soundtrack or an illustration, and the audience will wonder why they bothered.
Last few days of Orpheus rehearsal before moving to the theatre. Orchestra begins to arrive today. Load-in started on Monday. Stage management prep work on Comte Ory begins today. Figaro team visits next week.