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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is a thread to debate about contemporary opera. The opera that is being composed in our own days.

Of course, the obvious question is: "what is the limit of our own days?".

For the sake of this thread, let's define contemporary opera as any opera written after 1980. This gives us more than thirty years, and is a reasonable time for a genre that tends to think in centuries.

Perhaps some TC members that are fans of Opera, are not very familiar with the latest new things in the genre. Or they are afraid only avant-garde Opera is being composed now. We will see that this is not the case, not by any means. There are new operas for (almost) everyone to enjoy, no matter what is our personal taste.



Philippe Manoury, (Tulle, 1952) is a French composer living in the US, with some important success in his career. He has been working with electronic music, as well as large orchestras.

In the field of Opera, his best known piece is K, premiered the year 2001, in Paris. This is relatively short opera, that was the recipient of several awards in France. It's based on Kafka's Der Prozeß (The Trial), and it's quite interesting:



This year Manoury has premiered his fourth opera, La Nuit de Gutenberg, in Strasbourg.



It seems rather nice as far as the instrumental music goes, but the vocal treatment can be suspected, something like the usual sprechgesang for the male singers, and the high coloratura roles for females.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xl...ry-opera-national-du-rhin-bande-annonce_music
 

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Thomas Pasatieri - The Family Room

piano-reduction workshop version in Princeton New Jersey last summer.

2 sopranos. I forget their names but they were really exceptional. one of them was actually in the premiere cast of Corigliano's Ghosts of Versailles, and the other one's daughter was the librettist. Pasatieri kept referring to them as "the greatest singing actresses of our time" and it seemed like hyperbole at first, but after the show I was in agreement.

really phenomenal tonings and texturings, it was about these two women locked in a basement somewhere and what it was like for them psychologically trying to survive (the neglect and abuse of a husband or something). The Libretto went into some of the psychological introspectives, but the music is what really got you in the characters' heads.

on the whole, IT WAS AWESOME.
Mr. Pasatieri was there, and I met him afterwards. He said the orchestrated version is for 13 instruments or something like that.

Pasatieri is also known for his "The Seagull" based on Chekov. also worth noting- he conducted Jon Brion's miraculous Magnolia music when he was working at a film-music studio.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Pasatieri is one of the most prolific composers of our times. It's a little bit strange but he wrote seventeen operas between 1964 and 1986, and then nothing until the year 2007, when he premiered Frau Margot and The Hotel Casablanca. In this youtube we can hear about it:


His major success was The Seagull, premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 1974, based on Chekhov. We can hear this opera complete in youtube:

 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Ok, so you are a lover of traditional melody, and bel canto singing. You think contemporary opera is not for you. It's a kind of avant-garde noise, with people mumbling instead of singing, except for a few (out of tune) shouted high notes.

Well, there are many new operas that will somehow fit your description, and will reinforce your beliefs.

But then, there are others that you can, perhaps, enjoy.

Take for instance Laurent Petitgirard:



This composer premiered a very nice opera some years ago, Joseph Merrick, dit Elephant Man. The storyline is the unfortunate biography of Joseph Merrick, afflicted by neurofibromatosis, and abused like a freak in the circus. It's not based on the David Lynch's movie, it comes right from doctor Treves' memories and other contemporary documents, being compiled by Petitgirard's writer, Eric Nonn.

I bet most of the people loving traditional singing will like this beautiful choir:


Petitgirard's second opera, Guru, seems to be created in the footsteps of the first. It was premiered the year 2010 in Budapest, and we get a recording by Naxos.

It's a story about a charismatic and manipulative character that rules over a sect with apocalyptic inclinations comprised of 50 followers living in seclusion on an island. One recent adept, Marie (a spoken role, to underline her basic sanity), opposes him, but finally all people go suicidial except for her.

We can see here some information on Guru:



 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Some of the new operas are coming from Latin America.

Brazilian composer Jorge Antunes premiered the year 2006, in São Paulo, Olga. The piece is based on the life of Olga Gutmann, a German communist activist, that was the romantic interest of Brazilian leftist politician Luis Carlos Prestes. She was deported from Brazil to Germany, in 1936, while she was pregnant, and was murdered six years later, gassed in an extermination camp. After the war, she was made a model for revolutionary women, in the RDA.

We can watch the opera in youtube:

 

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I recently borrowed the DVD of the world premiere performance in Munich of south Korean composer Unsuk Chin's opera Alice In Wonderland, based on the famous book by Lewis Carroll . The premiere was about five years ago, and the audience is very enthusiastic on the DVD.
By golly, it's great fun ! Chin, a woman composer, has written a basically atonal yet highly inventive score and her orchestration is chock full of vivid colors . The only big name singer in the cast is Dame Gwyneth Jones
as the queen of hearts, believe it or not,at the age of 70, an dher voice is amazingly strong .
Not only that,she shows great comic flair ,and her performance, like the rest of the cast, is a hoot !
The whole cast seems to have great fun, and Kent Nagano conducts with great panache .
The sets and costumes are dazzling, with marionettes and all kinds of brilliant special effects .
This is recommended for people who think they don't like contemporary opera !
This opera should be done at the Met and other U.S. opera houses .
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Anders Nilsson (Stockholm, 1954) is a Swedish composer that has written a couple of operas. One of them is Zarah, based on the life of the actress Zarah Leander, during her years in Germany and her stardom status in the Nazi period.

Though she is not very well know outside Germany or the Nordic countries, Leander was a big star back in the 1930s and 1940s. Her career was controversial because she was one of the main attractions of the UFA, the all-powerful German motion-picture production company, though Leander always said that for her it was just a job, and she never was a member of the Nazi party.

This is Zarah Leander singing in one of her movies:


The opera deals with the last years of Leander in Germany, until her return to Sweden in 1943. It was quite a success when it was premiered in Sweden, back in 2007. We can watch some scenes in youtube:


 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I love Boris Vian's L'Écume des jours (The Foam of Days), a novel published in 1947, after the Second World War, that tried to capture the mood of the times, using the absurd as a kind of cornerstone.

The Russian composer Edison Denisov, a big fan himself of Vian and French literature, wrote an opera in 1981 based on this material, to his own libretto. It was premiered in 1986, at Paris, and since then it have been offered in Perm (sung in Russian), and Stuttgart (sung in German). It's a beautiful and complex opera, and with Denisov's usual passion to quote from others' music in his works.

We can hear a fragment of the French version: http://www.musiquecontemporaine.fr/record/oai:cdmc.asso.fr:aloes:0024593?language=fr

and the trailer of the German one:

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Some years ago, I watched Graciane Finzi's Le dernier Jour de Socrate at the Opéra Comique, in Paris, one of around ten operas she has written so far. More recently she has premiered Et nous le monde, with a libretto written between Jacques Descorde and the students of a 'lycée' placed in a troubled neighbourhood in the 'banlieues'. The students themselves recite the text while we heard Finzi's music and interventions from the Choir:

De ma fenêtre - http://www.goear.com/listen/f1ea83a/fasf-ga

In youtube, there are some fragments of Là bas peut-être:

 
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Opera is one of those few genres that's only getting better.

Reimann, Birtwistle, and Saariaho are probably my favorite all-around contemporary opera composers, off the top of my head, but there are many great ones.

Funny, I'm just recently discovering Philippe Manoury... Have any of his other operas besides the 60th Parallel been recorded? I'd be interested to hear just about anything based on Kafka; I haven't been able to hear Reimann's setting of The Castle, but Poul Ruders has a nice setting of The Trial (interspersed with bits of Kafka's life).

Beat Furrer and Salvatore Sciarrino also seem to be really strong names in opera right now.

I've heard bits and pieces of Chin's setting of Alice In Wonderland, but it needs a recording asap! And Brett Dean's Bliss! And...and...(too many to name)

Etc etc etc
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Opera is one of those few genres that's only getting better.

Reimann, Birtwistle, and Saariaho are probably my favorite all-around contemporary opera composers, off the top of my head, but there are many great ones.

Funny, I'm just recently discovering Philippe Manoury... Have any of his other operas besides the 60th Parallel been recorded? I'd be interested to hear just about anything based on Kafka; I haven't been able to hear Reimann's setting of The Castle, but Poul Ruders has a nice setting of The Trial (interspersed with bits of Kafka's life).

Beat Furrer and Salvatore Sciarrino also seem to be really strong names in opera right now.

I've heard bits and pieces of Chin's setting of Alice In Wonderland, but it needs a recording asap! And Brett Dean's Bliss! And...and...(too many to name)

Etc etc etc
There is not an official, commercial release of any other of Manoury's operas, to the best of my knowledge. However, "Alice in Wonderland" has been released on DVD:



About Kafka's operatic adaptations, of which there are a few, there is one by Sciarrino himself!. It's 'La porta della legge':


Perhaps the more famous operatic adaptation is Glass's 'In the Penal Colony':


Arguably, the more succesful so far is André Laporte 'Das Schloss':



Personally, my favorite musical adaptation from Kafka it's not an opera, but 'Kafka Fragments', by Gÿorgy Kurtág. In fact, Dawn Upshaw and Geoff Nuttall have performed 'Kafka Fragments' in a staging by Peter Sellars, but it's not a work originally planned for the stage: :)

 
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By the way, I haven't listened to Bluthaus, but I do have his chamber opera Nacht, and it's quite clear that Haas' music works for the stage as well as it works for anything else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The character of Faustus had always been a favourite for opera composers. Starting in the 19th century pieces like Faust, La Damnation de Faust, Mefistofele..., to Pascal Dusapin's Faustus, the Last Night, with Busoni's Doktor Faust in between.

One very nice work on the subject is the "Faust Cantata", by Schnittke, that was in origin just a part of an opera: Historia von D. Johann Fausten, that never materialized:


However, let's present in this post Giacomo Manzoni's Doktor Faustus, based on episodes from Thomas Mann's novel, selected by the composer, and premiered at La Scala, in 1989. This is the beginning of the opera:

http://www.goear.com/listen/d63edd2/f-ff
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Jonathan Dove is a British composer, quite experienced in the field of Opera, as he has written several pieces. One of them is a favorite of mine, Flight, the story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, for several years, later also used by Steven Spielberg as the basis for one of his movies.

We can watch Flight complete in youtube, from a Mezzo broadcast:


But arguably, Dove's more celebrated opera so far is The Adventures of Pinocchio:



It's based on the novel by Carlo Collodi. As you can imagine the plot is the creation of the wooden puppet 'Pinocchio' and some of his adventures on the way to becoming a real boy. It's a very nice opera, and suitable also for children.

 
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