Manual First Intermissions: Twenty-One Great Operas Explored, Explained, and Brought to Life From the Met

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His four short books on Wagner have become essential reading for all Wagnerians. His insights into the wider operatic repertoire are contained in five other music books, two of which are particularly recommendable. You are commenting using your WordPress.

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First Intermissions: Twenty-One Great Operas Explored, Explained, and Brought to Life from the Met

Skip to content. Share this: Facebook Email Print Twitter. Like this: Like Loading The music aims at an ecstatic, John Adams-style, heightened reality, and at times it approached a disquiet and supernatural ambiguity reminiscent of the film The Others. Metro, Warwick Thomson: I sometimes think of opera in London as a huge ocean liner For real cutting edge excitement you can't beat a world premiere.

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Fade, the first opera to be commissioned by the company, tells the story of a newly built eco-house going horribly wrong. The score consisted of largely instrumental texture underlying conversational exchange. The conversation was between a married couple and their maid as they moved into a new house and, by implication, into the downward spiral of their relationship You have to applaud Second Movement for their enterprise in taking on a new work And whatever its rough-edges musically, it had panache.

The DNA of something special in the making. Broad Street Review, Steve Cohen: Center City Opera Theatre is performing an estimable service by giving public stage performances of new operas—taking embryonic works from page to stage, as artistic director Andrew Kurtz puts it Kurtz and a committee sifted through a hundred scores that were submitted for consideration, and three were rehearsed and presented Fade had attractive music with softer contours, leaning towards French impressionism.

Stefan Weisman composed the music, which I might like to hear as an instrumental suite. In Fade, the state-of-the- art house doesn't match up to the wife's principles for a "green" house or to her memories of what the former house belonging to her grandmother meant to her in terms of family relationships. More and more, technological advances interfere with human relationships.

Scene4 Magazine, Maxine Kern: This realistically depicted story achieves larger dimension when dreams are sung by Gertie, the wife soprano Amy van Roekel , and Albert, the husband Jonathan Hays , and countered by cautionary musical inflection in the singing of the housekeeper mezzo Pamela Stein who sees the flaws of this anachronistic edifice and wants only to get home as soon as possible. The character of the music changes as the three people realize their positions and come to terms with the house itself At first the housekeeper sings with rich, carefully chosen words and she is addressed with sweeping romantic dialogue, mostly expressed by Jonathan Hays as Albert, with his strong and flowing baritone.

The dialogue itself creates suspense immediately, questioning everything. What is the housekeeper's name? What is in the boxes that are collected in the house? Are there still ghosts here from the old house that has replaced the new? The housekeeper, a young woman alone with two children, muses about whether she would like to live in a big house like this one miles from town and tucked into the woods. For a short while, humor surfaces in the face of suspense and questioning as the wife grounds the conversation in contemporary concerns about eco- friendly values, which get short shrift in this outsized mansion The music does a fine job of pacing the delivery of these arguments in overlapping and ongoing dialogue.

When the subtext between the couple overwhelms them into dismay, the music fills in for deliberate gaps in their singing. As such the music continues the original building of suspense, this time by indicating an underlying emotional tension, which chokes up their dialogue. After that, the dialogue and the music allow for arias and contrasting sounds and rhythms. The wife's arias are sweet, romantic and soaring, taking on a Straussian quality; the husband's, perfunctory yet strong.

The suspense is diminished, even as lights in the house go out. At this point, the composition tries to regain its original storyline about what will happen, yet also reflecting the fading of the couple's energy and their mutual but discordant disappointment. There was a whole lotta fusion going on The score varies from comedy to tragedy in an accessible idiom The tools that contemporary composers, conductors and directors are using to expand the spectacle of music can sometimes seem like unnecessary embellishments But unlike Mr.

Their dynamics are painful but deeply rewarding to watch. The relationship between the two is sensitively drawn Brother is a pants role, in the tradition of Cherubino and Octavian. His music is energetic and active. He never pauses for introspection in the form of an aria and interrupts solemn and reflective moments with jokes and insults The brothers race home in a storm. Doodle is left behind and runs after Brother. He soars into the air and then comes crashing down lifeless, like the scarlet ibis.

Astonishing things happen at close range. A child-size puppet becomes expressive Smallness is a powerful tool in the hands of those who wield it well Weisman and Cote have made something special Writing an extended operatic role for a small, disabled child might seem like asking for trouble. The Scarlet Ibis solved the problem by cleaving Doodle in two.

A remarkably lively puppet played his scrawny body, and the burly countertenor Eric S. Brenner supplied his high, sweet voice. What might have been an awkward compromise became a touching tour de force This trend is exemplified in the Prototype festival.. T he opera has a wonderfully clear narrative Along the way are any number of affecting musical set pieces, such as a church hymn that Doodle sings asking God to be healed greeted with mocking tones by his brother.

With a sound envelop resembling Appalachian Spring in its original chamber-orchestra version, the music subtly creates an effective netherworld between major and minor when the family first attempts to explain this highly unusual second child to Brother. Rhythms are simple but give an appropriate emotional pulse of every scene. When the score momentarily quotes the Falcon music of Die Frau ohne Schatten , one realizes how much The Scarlet Ibis runs counter to the usual steep peaks and valleys associated with traditional opera…the music achieves its own kind of foreground operatic status if only through its dramatic precision.

Most distinctive is the way the score gives the characters the time to think onstage. In contrast to more traditional opera where an emotional explosion is followed by a quick exit, important events have contemplation time that makes music and story even more insinuating. The Scarlet Ibis earns its pathos so honestly that, for the singers, this may have been a remarkably low-pressure gig. Luckily The Scarlet Ibis had the courage to be itself. Twice near the briskly paced opening of the new opera With these scenes, Weisman and Cote set the tone for the piece, which negotiates between two worlds: the suffering feminine versus the violent masculine; the mother's tenderness versus the father's toil…Weisman's music drives home the divide between the fragile boy and the big, frightening world around him by scoring much of the work in a gruff language of stiff rhythms and static harmonies, reserving for Doodle the opera's loveliest and most lyrical melodies The opera is undeniably effective, with both the set pieces written into the work and the director's coups de theatre generating enough emotional excitement to sustain the drama Weisman excels in the lyrical mode.

When Doodle, for instance, tells his brother a story about a magical peacock, the opera really takes flight At the death of Doodle, the orchestra reprises his elegy for the ibis, and by the time his brother arrives to find the tiny puppet limp and abandoned on the stage, the audience is guaranteed to be in tears. The creative team for this piece deserves kudos for recognizing so ideal an operatic subject, rich in emotion that can best be expressed in music. A particularly subtle touch was the high-lying distribution of voices: three women, a countertenor and a baritone, suggesting the female-centric world of a young child Was it good enough that I would see it again?

Does it have enough appeal to revive again? The answers: yes, yes, and yes. Initially, I was apprehensive about The Scarlet Ibis because of its source material I am glad composer Stefan Weisman and librettist David Cote proved me wrong.

The Scarlet Ibis is a poignant piece that deals sensitively with difficult issues and emotions. To me, in fact, the narrative works better as an opera than as a short story. Weisman's score is traditional enough at its core that it even borrows a snatch from Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten. Traditional doesn't mean banal or predictable, however. Cote's libretto worked very well, with nothing sounding too out of place or unnatural for the world they created — extraordinary considering how little dialogue is in the original short story.

The ease with which the score and the music and libretto worked together allowed me to forget — for the most part — that I was watching an opera, and allowed me to focus on the characters. And that's all I really want — good storytelling As Doodle often dreams, some of the most wistful and lyrical melodies are scored for him, including a haunting reverie for the dead ibis, and a dream song about a boy with a special pet peacock Still, it is accessible enough that even younger audiences could be entertained and enlightened by it.

In fact, while I do not mean to imply that The Scarlet Ibis is only suitable for young people — it would be excellent even for groups of elementary and middle school children to see. The duration is one hour and forty minutes, roughly divided into two acts without intermission. The pace is relaxed but never static, and the music expresses the drama so well, and is such a pleasure to hear, that one never feels time passing.

Instead, it is an accumulation of beautiful, dramatic details and emotional experiences that gather weight.

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One does not want the experience to end even as the final moments clearly draw closer Well, seeing the puppet who is Doodle gradually rise and walk, singing all the while, really was akin to seeing the raising of Lazarus. It was that startling. A magnificent collaboration between composer, librettist, director, designers, singers, musicians and puppeteers..

Composer Stefan Weisman and librettist David Cote have crafted an achingly beautiful opera examining the complex relationship between two brothers The final haunting melody, pulsating with the beat of a grief stricken heart, brought tears to my eyes. Every artist involved with this production should be congratulated for their stunning work…Opera lovers owe a big debt of gratitude to Beth Morrison Projects and HERE for supporting and nurturing such vital new work.

It has absolutely everything a great chamber opera demands: beautiful music, beautiful words, and a compact cast Or the haunting aria sung by Doodle, the young cripple, when he tells his brother about the fantastic lands he travels to in his dreams. The arias are accompanied by rich orchestration and the vocal line is never overpowered by the accompaniment.

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The score remains tonal and flows and pours out naturally. Feast of Music , Steven Pisano Weisman's score is rich and suggestive: at times bright and hopeful, at other times menacing and dark I had never heard of this story so I went home and Googled it and read it in 10 minutes. This made me appreciate even more the scope of what Stefan Weisman and David Cote had achieved. Make sure you bring Kleenex when you see this, and you really should.

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I was surprised to find myself choked up at points as I watched the puppet. Not only was that a testament to the puppeteers, but to Eric S. Brenner who occasionally manipulated the puppet alone. Just listening to Brenner was mesmerizing, and his countertenor voice led to the Southern Gothic otherworldly vibe…The Scarlet Ibis and its highly creative stagecraft left a lasting impression on me.

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The entire production in the small HERE theatre shows how much can be done with just light, creativity and ingenuity on stage. T he unique use of language, film and music were highly effective, and the performance received great applause as well as a standing ovation from the audience The theatrical power of Darkling underscores how quickly catastrophic events can destroy that which took many years to build. Darkling also movingly revives the memory of the Holocaust tragedy and reminds us of the dangers that we face in the present where terrorism is a constant threat.

The composer took full advantage of his operatic principals — soprano Jody Scheinbaum, mezzo Hai-Ting Chinn, tenor Jon Garrison and bass- baritone Mark Uhlemann — each of whom was afforded an opportunity to stand out Productions like this remind you that all too much light is cast upon the Met and City Opera — and even San Francisco and Houston — to define what new opera is, or might be. Let Darkling serve as a reminder that opera can also be what and where it is found. This is a profound, provocative piece of musical theater — one that I hope will occasion a great many opera lovers to stray from habitual paths.