Friday, 25 March 2016

Received in the mail : programme book for Rolf Wallin's 'Elysium' in Oslo

This morning, I have received in the mail the programme book published by the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo for the world première performance of Rolf Wallin's opera, Elysium.

It is a 40 pages booklet. It contains :

- the complete synopsis of the opera ;
- several color photos of the production ;
- Teknologi og kjærlighet, a conversation with the composer Rolf Wallin (Technology and love) ;
- Musikalsk samtale, by Bodil Maroni Jensen (Musical conversation) ;
- Norges første kyborg, by Hedda Høgåsen-Hallesby (Norway's first cyborg) ;
- En chip og millarder av mennesker i hodet, by Arnfinn Christensen (A chip and billions of people in the head) ;
- biographies of composer, librettist, conductor, director, set and costume designer and lighting designer.

It is entirely in Norwegian. There is an English translation of the synopsis. The cast is not included. I have added it to my collection of 402 programmes for contemporary operas.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Today : world première of Volker David Kirchner's 'Gutenberg' in Erfurt

Today, the new opera composed by Volker David Kirchner, Gutenberg, with a libretto by the composer, will be performed in Erfurt.

Volker David Kirchner has already composed several operas, including Belshazar (Munich, 1985), Gilgamesh (Hannover, 2000) and Savonarola (Kiel, 2011).
Who was Johannes Gutenberg ? He is a symbol of permanent strugle against church authorities and princes. Until now, he is mainly famous for inventing the printring press with movable type. It revolutionized the terms of knowledge and power. Five centuries later, the digital technologies made the world a village, broadened our horizons to infinity and unleashed unexpected treasure of human creativity. Ultimately, the opera ends with an 'epilogue in (cyber)Heaven' where Gutenberg meets Apple founder and Internet guru Steve Jobs. (freely adapted from the Theater Erfurt website)
The cast includes baritone Siyabulela Ntlale (Gutenberg), tenor Julian Freibott (Probst), baritone Nils Stäfe (Becher), tenor Won Whi Choi (Drizehn), mezzo Katja Bildt (Haushälterin) and actor Mark Pohl (Steve Jobs). Samuel Bächli conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Theater Erfurt. Martina Veh directs. The first part of the evening consists of Digitale Revolution, excerpts from Johann Sebastian Bach's St John Passion and Mass in B minor combined with electronic sounds by Gunnar Geisse.

In 2011, Philippe Manoury already composed an opera about Gutenberg : La Nuit de Gutenberg, first performed in Strasbourg on September 24th.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

New in my collection : two programme books from Opéra de Lyon

Yesterday, I received two programme books published by the Opéra de Lyon, for the following contemporary operas :

- Alexander Raskatov : A Dog's Heart, first performance on January 20th, 2014 ;
- Michel Tabachnik : Benjamin, dernière nuit, first performance on March 15th, 2016.

The first is a 200 pages book. The opera was first performed in Amsterdam on June 7th, 2010. The book is entirely in French. It contains :

- technical information : description of the libretto and score, complete cast with tessituras, complete orchestral setting, complete casts for the world première and the performances in Lyon ;
- detailed synopsis ;
- notices on the characters ;
- complete libretto in transliterated Russian, with French translation ;
- two articles by the composer : En quelques notes and L'Opéra pour l'Histoire ;
- excerpts of secret services reports on Mikhail Bulgakov's original novel ;
- two excerpts of Bulgakov's original novel ;
- biographical timlines of Alexander Raskatov and Mikhail Bulgakov.

The second is a 200 pages book. It contains :

- technical information : description of the libretto and score, complete cast with tessituras, complete orchestral setting, complete cast for the world première ;
- detailed synopsis ;
- notices on the characters ;
- complete libretto in French ;
- interview of librettist Régis Debray ;
- interview of composer Michel Tabachnik ;
- an article by musicologist Frank Langlois on the opera ;
- excerpts of works by writers appearing in the opera : Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Gershom Scholem ;
- biographical timelines of composer Michel Tabachnik, librettist Régis Debray and Walter Benjamin.

I now have more than 400 programme books for contemporary operas. All scanned covers are viewable in this flickr folder.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Today : world première of Sidney Corbett's 'Die Andere' in Magdeburg

Today, Sidney Corbett's new opera, Die Andere, with a libretto by Christoph Hein, will be premiered at the Theater Magdeburg.

It is the composer's sixth (and second biblical) opera. His previous stage works include Noach (Bremen, 2001), Ubu (Gelsenkirchen, 2012) and Das große Heft (Osnabrück, 2013).
Abraham was prophesied that he would be the progenitor of a people. But he must face the fact that his wife Sara  gave birth to no son. She sugggests he should make her maid Hagar pregnant instead. Hagar becomes pregnant, but against all odds, Sara expects a child too. Abraham's claims to power seem ensured, but the seed of conflict - not only between the two women - is planted (freely adapted from the Theater Magdeburg website).
The cast includes baritone Roland Fenes (Abraham), mezzo Undine Dreißig (Sarah), soprano Julie Martin du Theil (Hagar) and tenor Manfred Wulfert (Nachor). Michael Wendeberg directs the Magdeburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Ulrich Schulz directs.

The performance takes place at the Schauspielhaus.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Today : world première of Michel Tabachnik's 'Benjamin, dernière nuit' in Lyon

Today, the first opera (a lyrical drama in 14 scenes) composed by Michel Tabachnik, Benjamin, dernière nuit, with a libretto by Régis Debray, will be performed at the Opéra de Lyon.

The opera mixes music and theatre, with an actor and a tenor both playing the role of Walter Benjamin, lying on his deathbed or remembering his life. The libretto is in English, French and German, depending on the characters involved in the scene : the Hungarian novelist Arthur Koestler, the German philosopher Hannah Arendt, the French writer André Gide, the German playwright Bertolt Brecht...
1940. Walter Benjamin just arrived in Portbou, a French village near the Spanish border, following advice from his friends. In a desolate hotel room, he remembers his life in a series of flash-backs : his career, his friends, his regrets. He is gained by despari as he learned that he might be forced back to France. He commits suicide. (freely adapted from the Durand Salabert Eschig website).
The cast includes tenor Jean-Noël Briend (Walter Benjamin), actor Sava Lolov (Walter Benjamin), mezzo Michaele Selinger (Hannah Arendt), baritone Charles Rice (Arthur Koestler), terno Jeff Martin (Bertolt Brecht), tenor Gilles Ragon (André Gide). Bernhard Kontarsky conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra national de Lyon. John Fulljames conducts.

The opera should alst about 90 minutes. The orchestra required is the following :

- 1 piccolo, 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling English Horn), 1 English Horn, 2 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 2 bassoons (2nd doubling contrabassoon), contrabassoon ;
- 4 horns (doubling 4 Wagner tubas), 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba ;
- timpani, 1 piano, 1 harp ;
- 4 percussions : xylorimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, tubular bells ; sidedrum, bass drum ; cymbals, Chinese cymbals : gongs, bell plates, tam-tams, hyoshigi ;
- strings ;
- on stage : 1 piano, 1 honky-tonk piano, 1 accordion, 1 shofar ;
- fanfare : 4 trumpets, 3 horns, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, several drums, bass drum, cymbals.

There is no brodcast planned yet.

Today : world première of Kaija Saariaho's 'Only the sound remains' in Amsterdam

Today, De Nerderlandse Opera in Amsterdam presents the firstperformance of two new operas composed by Kaija Saariaho, under the title Only the sound remains.

Saariaho already composed three operas : L'Amour de loin (Salzburg, 2000), Adriana Mater (Paris, 2006) and Emilie (Lyon, 2010).

The first opera, Always strong (original title Tsunemasa) is based on a translation by Ezra Pound.
A young lute player named Tsunemasa returns as a spirit to the court following his death under violent circumstances. When alive, his playing on the Biwa lute was erotic and heavenly but he cannot find happiness again. The monk Gyōkei contacts the spirit and offers the Biwa lute before the altar of the deceased and performs a service with music. Tsunemasa’s spirit touches the lute briefly before disappearing slowly. (reproduced from Kaija Saariaho's website)
The second one, Feather Mantle (original title Hagoromo), is based on a translation by Ernest Fenollosa.
A fisherman named Hakuryō goes fishing with his companions and finds a beautiful robe hung on a pine branch. When he attempts to take it home as a family heirloom, a celestial maiden appears and asks him to return the robe to her. At first, Hakuryō refuses to return it. However he is moved by the celestial maiden who laments that she cannot go home to heaven without it. The fisherman argues with her and finally promises to return it if she will show to him her dance or at least part of it. She accepts his offer and eventually disappears in the haze, beyond the peak of Mount Fuji – only the sound remains. (reproduced from Kaija Saariaho's website)
Only two singers are needed for both operas : countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (Spirit of the young man / Angel) and bass baritone Davone Tines (Monk / Fisherman). André de Ridder conducts the chamber ensemble consisting of the Dudok Quartet joined by Eija Kankaanranta (kantele), Camilla Hoitenga (flute) and Niek KleinJan (percussion). Peter Sellars directs.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Today : world première of Wolfgang Mitterer's 'Marta' in Lille

Today, the new opera composed by Wolfgang Mitterer, Marta, with a libretto by Gerhild Steinbuch, will be performed in Lille, at the Opera House.

It is the composer's 10th work for music theatre. Among these, Massacre, first performed in Vienna in 2003, has been produced in several theatres since then. The libretto for Marta (in English) is based on sources as diverse as traditional children's tales to Tarkovsky's Stalker.
In a world rent asunder by a dreadful melancholy, ruled by a King Arthur who has been rendered powerless, bewildered, some crazy redeemer has made all the children disappear... The only remaining child is the Queen's daughter, Marta, an ageless doll, whose hair is continually being combed by her mother. Within her glass cage, Marta is given over for the adoration of the people: the final vestige of a doomed world. Poised between sleep and fear, between lynching and fires, in the blinding glare of an irradiated world, death is spreading relentlessly. (reproduced from the Ictus website)
The cast includes soprano Elsa Benoit (Marta), baritone Georg Nigl (Grot), mezzo Ursula Hesse von den Steinen (Ginevra) and tenor Martin Mairinger (Arthur). Clement Power conducts the Ensemble Ictus and Les Cris de Paris. Ludovic Lagarde directs.

The opera is scored for 5 singers, 8 chorus soloists and 11 instrumentalists (flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, piano, e-guitar, percussion, 4 strings and electronices). The performance should last about 90 minutes (no intermission).

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Today : world première of 'Fallujah' by Tobin Stokes in Long Beach

Today, the new opera composed by Tobin Stokes, Fallujah, with a libretto by Heather Raffo, will be performed in Long Beach (CA).

It is the composer's third opera after The Vinedressers (2001) and Pauline (2014). The opera's characters were inspired by people US Marine Christian Ellis encountered, including fallen comrades. In 2004, Christian Ellis was a young US Marine fighting in the Iraq War. He suffered a broken back when his platoon was ambushed, and was one of the few survivors. When eventually he returned home he found himself battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The opera spans a 72-hour holding period in a veterans’ hospital following US Marine Philip Houston’s third suicide attempt. His mother waits to see him outside his hospital room, but Philip has not been able to face her since he returned from war. The loyal Marines he served with stand vigilant, more equipped to care for his particular demons than she. In these 72 hours, Philip’s battle is as vivid and deadly as the war in which he fought. In the opening scene Wissam, a young Iraqi boy, enters his hospital room and, in a befriending gesture, writes his name on Philip’s hand. Suddenly one of Philip’s most humanizing memories becomes the catalyst through which he remembers how to live. Philip’s hours in the hospital force him to face both past and present. Scenes fly back and forth to Fallujah, providing a rare glimpse inside real hearts and minds before one of the biggest battles of the Iraq War.  
On the eve of the Battle of Fallujah, assuming heavy losses ahead, we see Philip and his fellow marines make final calls home to their families to say goodbye, without hinting at the horror to come. Nearby, Wissam and his mother must abandon their centuries-old family home. The act finally joins these worlds, these mothers, these sons, with each lingering “goodbye” reminding us just how much each character has to lose. (reproduced from the Mong Beach Opera website)
The cast includes tenor Arnold Livingston Geis (Corpsman), baritone Gregorio González (Lalo), soprano Suzan Hanson (Colleen), baritone Zeffin Quinn Hollis (Kassim), tenor Jonathan Lacayo (Wissam), soprano Ani Maldjian (Shatha) and bass LaMarcus Miller (Philip). Kristof van Grysperre conducts and Andreas Mitisek directs.

The performances take place at the Army National Guard. The performance should last about 90 minutes (no intermission).

Today : world première of Rolf Wallin's 'Elysium' in Oslo

Today, the new opera composed by Rolf Wallin, Elysium, with a libretto in English by Mark Ravenhill, will be performed in Oslo at the Main Hall of the Norwegian Opera in Oslo.

It is the composer's first opera.
What is a man ? Where are the boundaries between our bodies, our thoughts and new technology ? Are we still human if we remove pain, conflict and sorrow ? A computer chip implanted in the throat allows humans to freely share thoughts, sensory perceptions and emotions with each other. Nor do these new ‘transhumans’ live under the threat of decease or death. Peace and affluence have become a worldwide reality. However, 40 original humans have been preserved in a living cultural history museum on an isolated island. Once a year they perform Beethoven's opera Fidelio for the ‘transhumans’. They do this to commemorate the long struggle for human rights, which we praised in memorial speeches and at art expressions, but never managed to realise in our time. (reproduced from the Norwegian Opera website)
The cast includes soprano Eli Kristin Hanssveen (Kvinnen), mezzo soprano Hege Høisæter (Naboen), bass Ketil Hugaas (Ektemannen), soprano Lina Johnson (Hustruen) and tenor Nils Harald Sødal (Coraig / Jaquino). Baldur Brönnimann conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Norwegian Opera. David Pountney conducts. The performance should last about 2 hours and 30 minutes, with 1 intermission.

Today : world première of 'Iliade l'amour' by Betsy Jolas in Paris

Today, the opera Iliade l'amour, composed by Betsy Jolas, with a libretto by Bruno Bayen and the composer after his play Schliemann, will be performed in Paris, at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse, on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

It is a new chamber version of the opera Schliemann, first performed in Lyon on May 3rd, 1995, with Kent Nagano conducting.
The libretto tells the story of Heinrich Schliemann, who was fascinated with Homer's Iliad.
The cast includes baritone Julien Clément (Schliemann), soprano Marianne Croux (Sophia), mezzo Anaïs Bertrnad (Andromache), baritone Igor Bouin (Spencer), mezzo Eva Zaïcik (Nelly) and tenor Fabien Hyon (Mr. Haak). David Reiland conducts the Orchestre du Conservatoire. Antoine Gindt directs.

The opera shoud last about 95 minutes. The first performance will be broadcast live on the CNSMDP website.

Friday, 11 March 2016

New in my collection : program book for Miroslav Srnka's 'South Pole' in München

This Friday morning, I have finally received in the mail the program book for the world première of Miroslav Srnka's opera South Pole, in Munich.

It is a 336 pages book. It contains :

- black and white original photos of Robert Scott, Roald Amundsen and their teams ;
- the complete cast, with tessituras and the compklete orchestra setting ;
- the complete libretto in the original English with a German translation ;
- 40 black and white photos of the expeditions ;
- Frank Hilberg : Szenen eines Wettlaufs, die Oper South Pole von Miroslav Srnka ;
- Marie Luise Maintz : Von der Erfindung der Musik, der Komponist Miroslav Srnka ;
- Chris Mead : Seelenchirurgie, über das Werk von Tom Holloway ;
- Wozu sind wir aufgebrochen ?, a discussion with the composer and the director Hans Neuenfels ;
- Tor Bomann-Larsen : Der Traum vom Südpol, Amundsens Telegramme und andere verschlüsselte Botschaften ;
- Ute Frevert : Vermessene Gefühle - Ehre, Heldentum und Wettkampf in der Antarktis ;
- Michael Beckerman : Kalte Klänge - Über das Verhältnis von Temperatur und Musik ;
- a chronology table of the expeditions to the South Pole ;
- 21 color photos of the dress rehearsal with piano (January 21st, 2016) ;
- plot summary in German, English and French.

There is a separate folded map of the South Pole, showing the paths followed by the explorers, with a diagrammatic sketch of the opera. Unfortunately, the size of the characters is so small it is impossible to read.

I now have 396 program books for contemporary operas. The covers can be seen in this flickr folder.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Today : world première of Carlisle Floyd's 'Prince of Players' in Houston (TX)

Today, Prince of Players, the new chamber opera composed by Carlisle Floyd with a libretto after Jeffrey Hatcher's Compleat Female Stage Beauty, will be performed by Houston Grand Opera at the Cullen Theater (Wortham Theater Center).

The production is part of the celebration of the composer's 90th birthday. His lyrical output include several landmarks of the American operatic history such as Susannah (1956), Of Mice and Men (1969) and Cold Sassy Tree (2000).
The androgynous Edward Kynaston has become an idol of London's Restoration-era theater for his finely honed and utterly convincing portrayals of female characters. But with the stroke of a pen, King Charles II not only allows women to appear onstage but also forbids men from performing as women. Only Kynaston's mastery of his craft keeps him from being swept away by the tides of change. (reproduced from the HGO's website).
The cast includes baritone Ben Edquist (Edward Kynaston), soprano Mane Galoyan (Margaret Hughes), tenor Chad Shelton (Charles II), tenor Joseph Evans (Sir Charles Sedley), tenor Scott Quinn (Villiers, Duke of Buckingham) and mezzo Megan Samarin (Lady Meresvale / Mistress Revels). Patrick Summers conducts the HGO Orchestra and Chorus. Michael Gieleta directs. The opera should last about 90 minutes, with one intermission.

The orchestra is the following (reproduced from the Boosey & Hawkes website) :

- 2 flutes (doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (doubling English Horn), 2 clarinets (doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (doubling double bassoon) ;
- 2 horns, 2 trumpets ;
- timpani and percussion ;
- harp and strings.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Today : world première of 'Brass Poppies' by Ross Harris in Wellington

Today, the new chamber opera composed by Ross Harris, Brass Poppies, with a libretto by Vincent O'Sullivan, will be performed in Wellington (Shed 6) as a co-production between New Zealand Opera and New Zealand Festival.

It it the composer's fifth opera since The Clockmaker (1978). His previous opera Black Ice has not been performed yet.

The opera portrays Gallipoli as both a military story and one of domestic New Zealand. Wives and families at home in Wellington are as much to the fore as men in uniform at the front in an innovative depiction of the 1915 battle of Chunuk Bair. (reproduced from the New Zealand Festival website)
The cast includes tenor James Egglestone (William Malone), soprano Anna Leese (Mary / Luck), soprano Madison Nonoa (Joyce), mezzo soprano Sarah Court (Mrs Malone), and baritone Robert Tucker (Tommo). Hamish McKeich conducts the Stroma New Music Ensemble and Jonathan Alver directs. The opera should last 70 minutes (no interval).