Summer is a great time to catch up on reading and movie viewing. With four new dynamic operas soon to premiere on stages in the US and Europe, we have some summer recommendations for your operatic prep work!
"Life is a dream from which only death awakens us." Lewis Spratlan's Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Life is a Dream, with a libretto by James Maraniss, is based on the classic 17th century play of the same title by Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Calderon's best known work is a philosophical allegory about the human situation and the mystery of life in which the central argument is the conflict between free will and fate. Santa Fe Opera presents the world premiere performances July 24-August 19 in a production directed by Kevin Newbury, starring John Cheek, Roger Honeywell, James Maddelena, and Ellie Dehn, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
Lars von Trier's darkly moving musical film Dancer in the Dark (2000), which stars Bjork and Catherine Deneuve, inspired Poul Ruders to create his fourth opera his third commissioned by Royal Danish Opera. The premiere performance in Copenhagen is scheduled for September 24th. The libretto, in English, is based on the original screenplay and adapted by Henrik Engelbrecht, head of dramaturgy at the Royal Danish Opera. Dancer in the Dark is von Trier's tale of a Czech immigrant factory worker in the Northwest United States who becomes blind due to a congenital disease and tries to save money for an operation to avoid the same fate for her 12-year-old son. “Dancer in the Dark is the most emotive and evocative film I ever recall seeing," Ruders said in a statement."When, after the film I staggered out of the cinema, I knew this was the ultimate blueprint for a new opera — universal, timeless and engaging" he added.
Pablo Neruda's life and poetry continue to inspire millions around the world in many languages but especially in his own Spanish. Daniel Catán's latest opera Il Postino is likewise inspired by and imbued with Neruda's poetry. Based upon the novel by Antonio Skármeta and the well-loved award-winning 1995 film by Michael Radford, Catán created his own libretto by adapting Radford's screenplay – and translating it into Spanish. He says, "The moment I saw Il Postino I realized that it was an opera theme for me. Opera is a fabulous art that combines music and poetry. Furthermore, it deals with the most important themes in our lives. Il Postino is about the place Art and Love hold in the scheme of our lives and how they bring about growth and transformation. To crown it all, I had the ravishingly sensual poetry of Pablo Neruda." Ron Daniels directs Los Angeles Opera's world premiere production on September 23rd which stars Placido Domingo as Neruda and Charles Castronovo, as Mario Ruoppolo, the Postman.
Hans Werner Henze's Gisela! Or the Strange and Memorable Ways of Happiness, is based on an original story by the composer which focuses on the age-old Commedia dell'Arte character, Pulcinella as a love interest of the opera's title character. In creating this opera, Henze has crafted a story for young people of all ages and for performance by a group which includes young musicians. Henze describes his original libretto as being “About a girl in Naples who falls in love with Pulcinella, the commedia dell-arte puppet.” There are elements of comedy, but it doesn't have the typical fairy-tale ending. Premiere performances of Gisela! (September 25-October 8) are presented by the Ruhrtriennale and ruhr.2010 (who jointly commissioned the work) as part of “The Henze Project” an extensive series of concerts of Henze's complete oeuvre.
Russian composer Alexander Raskatov's opera, A Dog's Heart, based on the absurdist short story by Mikhail Bulgakov, will be unveiled on June 7 at the Netherlands Opera for a run of eight performances. In this classic satire of Soviet life in the 1920s, the transformation by organ transplant from a stray dog into a human being leads to unsettling consequences. Renowned British stage director Simon McBurney in collaboration with Complicite makes his operatic debut in this co-production with the English National Opera, where the production will run November 20-December 4, 2010.