In opera news, G. Schirmer highlights four very distinctive productions happening this spring: the US premiere of Saariaho’s Émilie; a centenary celebratory run of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium; the US premiere of Henze’s Phaedra; and a rare production of Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights.
Wuthering Heights is based on Emily Brontë's gothic romance. Unable to bridge the chasm of social class, Heathcliff and Catherine are consumed by a love that can never be, and its legacy haunts the windswept Yorkshire moors. The music of the opera, composed by Hollywood legend Bernard Herrmann, underscores the novel's passion, prejudice and mystery. Herrmann was an Academy Award-winning composer whose unforgettable collaborations include Psycho with Alfred Hitchcock, Citizen Kane with Orson Welles and Taxi Driver with Martin Scorsese.
Minnesota Opera's new production of his only opera celebrates the centennial of the composer's birth and is the first major revival of this forgotten masterpiece since it was composed in Minneapolis in 1951. Performances run April 16 through 23. For more information and tickets, please visit the Minnesota Opera’s website. Listen to a lush excerpt from the opera on G. Schirmer’s Wuthering Heights page.
On May 29 (with subsequent performances on June 3 and 11), Kaija Saariaho’s Émilie receives its highly anticipated US premiere at the Spoleto Festival in an all-new production directed by Marianne Weems, Artistic Director of The Builders Association theater company. The monodrama in nine scenes follows the life of Émilie du Châtelet: lover of Voltaire; esteemed physicist who first defined kinetic energy; respected mathematician and translator of Newton’s Principia Mathematica; author of a treatise on the happiness of women; inventor of the concept of financial derivatives in part to pay off $1 million she lost to card sharks in a night of gambling—all of this achieved before she died in childbirth at the age of 42. Revered Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, internationally extolled for her contemporary operas, together with librettist Amin Maalouf, focuses on her heroine’s ruminations on love, fame and science during the last days of her life. Soprano Elizabeth Futral makes her Festival debut as Émilie and Spoleto Festival USA Resident Conductor John Kennedy conducts. Visit the Spoleto website for tickets. Additionally this season, the Spoleto Festival celebrates the centenary of the birth of Gian Carlo Menotti, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Festival founder, with a fresh look at one of Menotti’s most popular and compelling operas, The Medium, running May 28 through June 10. With a libretto by the composer, the opera is set amid the devastation of post-war Europe and relays the haunting ghost story of a fraudulent medium who ultimately becomes the victim of the voices she conjures. An instant sensation on Broadway where it ran for over 100 performances, the opera’s balance of delicate orchestration, lyric writing, and intense theatricality define the Menotti style. Directed and designed by John Pascoe (of last year’s runaway hit, Flora, an Opera), with Artistic Director for Choral Activities and longtime Menotti associate Joseph Flummerfelt conducting members of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra. Visit the Spoleto Festival website for tickets, and listen to an excerpt from the opera on G. Schirmer’s The Medium page.
June 3 through June 12, The Opera Company of Philadelphia presents the US premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s recent opera Phaedra. This arresting opera with a libretto by Christian Lehnert is based on the classic Greek myth of Phaedra, wife of Theseus, the Athenian King who vanquished the dreaded Minotaur. Phaedra's forbidden and unrequited love for her stepson, Hippolyt, embroils her in a tragic battle between feuding goddesses Aphrodite and Artemis for his affections, and ultimately results in Hippolyt's demise at his father's hand and Phaedra's death at her own. The New York Times praised its 2007 world premiere for “... a consistent rhythmic vitality and often an otherworldly beauty that is hard to resist.” The Times of London described it as, “Just two acts, some 75 minutes, an exquisite retelling by Christian Lehnert of the Phaedra myth, and a score in which a string quartet meets the voices of wind soloists and percussion: this late work is one of Henze’s most fresh, most moving and perfectly conceived works.” A new production for the American premiere is conceived by Artistic Director Robert B. Driver with designer Philippe Amand. Music Director Corrado Rovaris conducts. For more information please visit www.operaphila.org.