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New American opera

For all of the effects of the recession, I'm impressed at the number of mainstage world premieres that are coming up in 2010 and 2011. So here, for the record, is a continuation of the informal list that began in the blog comments a few days ago, which I'll keep adding to as information comes in.

Madame White Snake by Zhou Long at Opera Boston (February 26, 28, March 2, 2010)
Elmer Gantry by Robert Aldridge at Florentine Opera (March 19, 21, 2010) (not a world premiere)
Shadowboxer by Frank Proto at Maryland Opera Studio/Clarice Smith Center (April 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 2010)
Moby-Dick by Jake Heggie at the Dallas Opera (April 30, May 5, 8, 13, 16, 2010)
Amelia by Daron Aric Hagon at the Seattle Opera (May 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 2010)
Before Night Falls by Jorge Martin at the Fort Worth Opera (May 29, June 6, 2010)
Edited to add: The Golden Ticket by Peter Ash at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis (June 12, 16, 18, 22, 24, 26)
Edited to add: Life is a Dream by Lewis Spratlan at the Santa Fe Opera (July 24, 28, August 6, 12, 19)
Il Postino by Daniel Catán at the Los Angeles Opera (September 23, 29, October 2, 5, 9, 16)
Rio de Sangre by Don Davis at the Florentine Opera (October 22, 23, 24, 2010).
Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Ricky Ian Gordon at the Minnesota Opera (2010-11 seasonEdited to add: April 16, 17, 19, 21 and 23, 2011).

And speaking of new American opera, I want to know when the Metropolitan Opera is going to get around to announcing some actual dates for performances of the commissioning program it announced back in 2006. Of the works then announced -- four years ago now; plenty of time to write an opera -- Rufus Wainwright's was already rejected by the program and performed last year in Manchester; now, Nico Muhly's Two Boys, a later addition to the roster that was supposed to be a co-production with the Met, has been announced in print for ENO in 2011. Any Met dates for that? And what about all those other new operas we were promised? I'm sure the resonating silence on this topic is a symptom of recession woes; I wonder if they'll manage to evade those questions yet again at this year's season announcement.

By Anne Midgette  |  January 29, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  national , news , opera  
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Re Met/LCT Opera/Theater Commissions:

1) The lazy composers need to get off their duffs and compose something. From in Feb 2009:

"Met/LCT Opera/Theater Commissions Program begins a workshop production this October of a new piece by composer Nico Muhly and librettist Craig Lucas, directed by Bartlett Sher.

"In all, six of the ten composer/librettist teams participating in the program have identified subjects for their collaborations and signed on to develop their projects. The teams of composer Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie (librettist) and composer Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson (librettist) have begun work on their new works. Composer Bill Whelan and Paul Muldoon (librettist) have settled on a subject and are outlining their story. Composer Jeanine Tesori and playwright Tony Kushner are working on an original story. Composer Scott Wheeler is working with playwright Romulus Linney to adapt one of Linney's plays. Composer Michael Torke, librettist Michael Korie, and co-librettist/director Des McAnuff have chosen a subject and are concluding their agreement. The teams of Jake Heggie (composer) and Richard Greenberg (librettist), Rachel Portman (composer) and Nicholas Wright (playwright), and Adam Guettel and Wynton Marsalis are currently exploring ideas."

That's after THREE years! The Met needs a Schikaneder: "Look, you little clown, do you know how many people I've hired for you? Do you know how many people are waiting?"

2) The Met still reserves the right to accept or reject performing the opera, as was done to Wainwright.

3) According to Wainwright, the earliest time the Met could have staged his opera was 2014 (Times, 27 August 2008). I suspect you won't see Muhly's Two Boys until 2015. That is, if the Met accepts it.

Posted by: prokaryote | January 29, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, I just read this on

"90.9 To Put Opera, Vocal Classical On HD2 - 1/25 - DCRTV told you over the weekend that classical WETA-FM (90.9 FM) has launched an HD2 digital HD Radio subchannel playing more classical music - generic, so far. Now, we hear that the station will put Viva La Voce, a radio channel featuring choral, opera, and art song, on its HD2 come February. VLV, which was carried by the HD2 of the old classical WGMS back when it was on 103.5 FM (right), will share hosts with WETA-FM and "will provide additional opportunity for classical music enthusiasts to hear the vocal music they love," we're told....."

I'm one of the suckers who got an HD radio a while back, so I will have to check this out after work. I see nothing about this on the WETA website... typical.

Posted by: prokaryote | January 29, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I worry about those Met commissions prokaryote, because it seems they're gonna be stuck in Workshop Hell. Whilst everyone loves the 'Broadway Model' of workshopping something at low cost- even in the Broadway Model unless its a total dog it makes it to the stage eventually.

Workshops are all well and good, but they should be for tinkering, not tooling around a whole project. They seem to be swallowing up new work, never to be seen again.

That's why I like the Minnesota model, there's a definite end product on stage and not just endless, insufferable workshops where the composer's opinion sits somewhere below the Chair of the Auditing Committee's.

Posted by: ianw2 | January 30, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Last night, I reread Anne Midgette’s link to Mark Swed’s exceptionally well-written article on the Los Angeles Opera’s upcoming season of six operas (following upon this late spring’s full cycles of Ring performances).

I liked the way that Mr Swed, in discussing the Los Angeles Opera’s upcoming world premiere of Daniel Catán’s “Il Postino” (with Placido Domingo as the poet Pablo Neruda), also discussed the company’s previous world premiere in 1997 of Daniel Catán’s “Florencia en el Amazonas” (both are Spanish language world premieres; to which I do not take exception); as well as humorously bringing in the Los Angeles Opera’s more recent world premiere of Howard Shore’s “The Fly”.

I also found the article’s closing information that Placido Domingo would like to sing Monteverdi’s “The Return of Ulysses” both important news and moving.

Two other special touches in Mr Swed’s comprehensive yet highly readable article caught my interest:

“The company will take what it says is a temporary hiatus from its high-profile "Recovered Voices" series that began in 2007 of productions of European operas that fell victim to Nazi censorship.” [Franz Schreker's "The Stigmatized" plays this April, 2010.]

If only former Washington National Opera audiences could have been similarly assured, in recent years, that the company was taking only a “temporary hiatus” from its commitments to staging an American classical opera every season!

Perhaps more importantly – and overlooked by Anne – is that “season will end in March 2011, with Benjamin Britten’s brilliantly creepy “The Turn of the Screw,” which will initiate a four-year celebration of the British composer, whose centenary is in 2013. [Starring Patricia Racette, who will also be a featured artist in the Vocal Arts Society’s and the Nation’s Capital’s upcoming “America Sings: A Festival of American Music for the Voice Festival.”]

The Los Angeles Opera is managing, in its next shortened season, to do both a world premiere by Daniel Catán AND a Benjamin Britten opera.
One cannot expect such daring here at Placido Domingo’s other company. Does anyone else wonder why?

Furthermore, the article states that the Los Angeles Opera board now has the private-sector financial commitments to pay back the loan of public Los Angeles County monies, which is apparently allowing the company to stage its expensive Ring cycle, stage a world premiere of a Spanish-language new opera, and stage a brilliantly creepy masterpiece by Benjamin Britten. (There is even money riding in Vegas that the Anglo-phile Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington National Opera will stage Britten’s “Gloriana” before it stages another American classical opera.)

The article closes with Mr Swed quoting Placido Domingo:

“You have to always be ready to grow,” he said, speaking both of himself and of L.A. Opera.

Posted by: snaketime1 | February 1, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

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