Saturday, 31 January 2015

My collection of programm books for contemporary operas

I have uploaded scans of the covers of all programm books for contemporary operas I have.
They are in the following flickr album :

I will continue to upload covers, as long as my collection keeps growing.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Today : world premiere of Joby Talbot's 'Everest' in Dallas (TX)

Today, the Dallas Opera (Winspear Opera House) will present the world première performance of Joby Talbot's first opera Everest, as second part of a double bill evening starting with the 4th act of Alfredo Catalani's La Wally.


The libretto has been written by Gene Scheer, who has already written texts for Tobias Picker, Jake Heggie and Jennifer Higdon.
On the slopes of Mount Everest, luck and the weather can turn with equal ferocity and swiftness, and dreams die even for the most valiant of men. The opera confronts the tragic events surrounding an ill-fated Everest expedition. (Reproduced from the Dallas Opera website)
The cast includes tenor Andrew Bidlack (Rob Hall), mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke (Jan Arnold), bass Kevin Burdette (Beck Weathers), baritone Craig Verm (Doug Hansen), soprano Julia Rose Arduino (Meg), baritone John Boehr (Guy) and bass-baritone Mark McCrory (Mike). Nicole Paiement conducts and Leonard Foglia directs.

It is interesting to notice that this operas has been rated PG-13 by the Dallas Opera for 'adult themes, intense drama, language, onstage death'.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

'Shadowtime' by Brian Ferneyhough : full score and recording

Shadowtime is an opera in 7 scenes composed by Brian Ferneyhough from 1999 to 2004, with a libretto by Charles Bernstein, dealing with the philosopher Walter Benjamin. Commissioned by the City of Munich for the Münchner Biennale, it was first performed at the Prinzregententheater on May 25th, 2000.

The duration of the opera is about 2 hours. The full score of the opera was published by Edition Peters in 2004 (with the catalogue number EP 7788).

The score simply contains a 'Contents' page. There are no information about the complete opera : orchestral setting, cast, plot summary, world première. The website of the publisher doesn't include any helpful information. Luckily, the Münchener Biennale website has online archives with details about every opera that has been performed there. There you can find the complete cast (singers and orchestra), as well as pictures of performances.

Here is a sample :

This opera has a very special story, considering the scenes have been performed separately before the first complete performance in Munich. The score reflects this story by giving various information before each scene. The scenes have been published separately before. So there is a double numbering of the pages : starting from 1 for each scene at the top, and 'complete' from 1 to 432 at the bottom. The second scene is an instrumental piece for which the detailed instrumentation is given on page 70. The third scene, a choral piece with a small chamber ensemble, was first performed in New York. The fourth was first performed in Belgium, and is introduced with a 'Performance Note' and a 'Composer's Note'. The fifth scene, as announce on the contents page, is printed in the landscape format.

I wonder if during a performance, the conductor has to turn the score himself at this point. Most likely each scene is a different book (as listed on the publisher website), already in the right direction.

The sixth scene was commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris. It is scored for a reciter and a small ensemble. The last scene was commissioned for the IRCAM, also in Paris.

After the first performances in Munich, the opera was performed in Nanterre (near Paris), London, New York, Bochum and Stockholm (only 3 scenes). The London performances (at the Coliseum, English National Opera) were recorded by NMC and then published as a double CD.

CD 1 : scenes 1-3 (64'42)
CD 2 : scenes 4-7 (62'02)

For this recording, Jurjen Hempel conducts the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart and the Nieuw Ensemble, with Nicolas Hodges (piano and speaker) and Mats Scheidegger (guitar). The vocal parts are sung by members of the chorus : bass Ekkehard Abele (Walter Benjamin), soprano Angelika Luz (Innkeeper), soprano Monika Meier-Schmid (Dora Benjamin), sopranos Anja Paulus and Silke Storz (2 children), alto Janet Collins (Henry Gurland), tenor Martin Nagy (Hölderlin), bass Andreas Fischer (Gershom Scholem), bass Guillermo Anzorena (Young Walter Benjamin).

It is a pity that the publisher didn't seize the opportunity of publishing the score for including as a foreword the complete and detailed history of composition, commission and performance, rather than compiling previously existing scores. These scores also had to be printed all on the same size of paper, and the first scene has been printed in so small a print, it is impossible to decypher the vocal parts and any information giving by the composer. I wonder if there has been any proof reading of the actual score, which is almost useless !

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Today : world première of Anton Lubchenko's 'Doctor Zhivago' in Regensburg

Today, the second opera composed by Russian composer Anton Lubchenko, Doctor Zhivago, will be performed in Regensburg, at the Theater am Bismarckplatz.


The libretto in Russian, written by the composer, is based on the novel by Boris Pasternak. The opera is a commission of the Theater Regensburg, in cooperation with the Primorsky Theater in Vladivostok.
World War I : the young doctor Zhivago meets Lara, who works as a nurse. They fall in love, but are separated by the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. Years later, they meet again, but happiness can't last because he is kidnapped by revolutionary Strelnikov. Political tribulations and unwanted acquaintances from the past seem to prevent them from enjoying a shared happiness...
Cast includes bass baritone Vladimir Baykov (Zhivago), soprano Michael Schneider (Lara), tenor Vitali Ishutin (Komarovski), bass Mario Klein (Wächter), mezzo Vera Egorova (Kubaricha). The composer conducts the Regensburg Opera Chorus and Philharmonic Orchestra. Silviu Purcarete directs.

Lubchenko's first opera, The Son of Man, was composed in 2006, on the initiative of Larisa Gergieva, in memory of the victims of the school hostage crisis in Beslan, two years earlier.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Today : world première of Pelle Gudmunsen-Holmgreen's first opera in Copenhagen

Today, the first opera of Danish composer Pelle Gudmunsen-Holmgreen will be performed in Copenhagen, on the small stage of the Danish National Opera (Takkelloftet, 200 seats).

The title of the opera is Sol går op, sol går ned (Sun goes up, sun goes down) and it is described by the composer as a stage symphony with singers, actors, dancers and musicians. The libretto in Danish is inspired by the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes from the Old Testament.

The cast includes soprano Aileen Itani (Sulamith), baritone Andreas Landin (Young Salomo), bass Sten Byriel (Old Salomo), the actors Hadi Ka-Koush, Ida Cæcilie Rasmussen, Lado Hadzic, Lars Knutzon, the dancers Vigdis Hentze Olsen abd Alexandre Bourdat. Jakob Hultberg conducts and Eva-Maria Melbye directs.

The ochestra consists of 1 clarinet, 3 trombones, percussion, electric guitar, bass guitar, violin, viola and violoncello. There is also a 4 voices chorus. The opera is published by Wilhelm Hansen.

The opera should last about 85 minutes, not including a 25 minutes interval. There is no broadcast planned yet.