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Contemporary opera

187565 Views 805 Replies 82 Participants Last post by  schigolch
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.
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"Der Mozartautomat" is a chamber opera by Paul Hertel premiered in 2021. The plot is about Mozart being the product of a madman who created an automaton in the 18th century, using a technology that is now lost.

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"Die chinesische Nachtigall", a children opera by Esther Hilsberg, was premiered in Germany back in 2009:

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"Hashirigaki" is a piece of musical theater written by Heiner Goebbels (with words by Gertrude Stein and music by Brian Wilson) back in 2000.

I watched a live performance some years ago, in the Spanish city of Salamanca, of all places:

Nancy Van de Vate is an American-born composer living in Austria, that has written several operas.

One of them is "Nemo", premiered at the end of the 20th century:

Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour is an Iranian composer, that has written several operas.

The first one, "The Doll behind the Curtain", based on a short story by Sadeq Hedayatwas, premiered in London in 2015.

Fine, let's see the results.

There are already some operas about Turing:

Really, the main objective of this thread is to share in TC just how many different composers, and in how many different styles, we can find writing contemporary opera. :)

So, I plan to mention quite a few more composers and operas. I try not to be judgmental in this thread (though, surely, some composers and some pieces attract me much more than others), but of course discussion and debate are also welcome. ;)

Alain Turing is one fascinating figure among 20th century scientists.

He invented the mathematical entity called "Turing machine", an imaginary computer that was one of the basis of computer science. He was also behind the "Turing test", to determine if a machine was able of independent thinking. Turing's idea, of a typically English pragmatism, was to use a group of human beings that will interact with the machine during several hours, using an interface that will mask its physical identity. If, at the end of the process, the machine had been able to convince a majority of the members of the group that it was a human being, then it was really a thinking machine.

Using this concept, Scottish composer Julian Wagstaff wrote his opera The Turing test.

The Turing Test - An Opera by Julian Wagstaff

Also, Turing Machine Opera, by Eeppi Ursin and Visa-Pekka Mertanen, based on Turing's life, was premiered in Helsinki, the year 2008:

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Friedrich Cerha died today at 96 years old.

Of course, he will be always remembered for completing the Third Act of "Lulu".

But he also wrote some nice operas of his own.

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My problem with contemporary opera from the contest point of view is there are very few operas sung by different singers on Youtube as often contemporary opera is just a one production showing and few recordings. I love the arias to Barber's Anthony and Cleopatra but few singers sing them to do a comparison. Perhaps I speak in ignorance but that is my impression.
'Antony and Cleopatra' is not even a contemporary opera, as per the definition we are using for this thread, having been performed for the first time back in 1966... :)

I understand the difficulty. Maybe you can try with "Batter My Heart" a beautiful baritone aria in John Adams's 'Doctor Atomic' to see if you have enough material available.
Mark-Anthony Turnage is a British composer that has written so far six operas.

Arguably his more successful piece is "Anna Nicole", premiered in 2011 at the Royal Opera House, and based on the life of the celebrity Anna Nicole Smith:

The composer and percussionist Brett William Dietz wrote in 2006 his only opera so far, "Headcase":

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Just at the beginning of our agreed time period to consider an opera "contemporary", in 1980, Giselher Klebe wrote "Der Jüngste Tag", with a libretto by his wife, Lore Klebe, based on the play of the same name by Ödön von Horváth:

More than 10 years have passed since the thread was opened, so I guess we should also move forward the 1980 threshold... or rather not.
Thanks, yes I'm aware.

In fact, we have already discussed in this thread the first opera written by Ms. Colasanti:

The Italian composer Silvia Colasanti premiered La Metamorfosi at the Florence's Maggio Musicale, back in 2012. With a libretto by Pier Luigi Pier'Alli, and based in Kafka, we can watch the opera complete in youtube:

As well as another opera on Akhmatova, by Bruno Mantovani:

Mantovani premiered a few years later his opera Akhmatova, inspired in the life and times of the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, at Paris's Bastille Opera.

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Dai Fujikura: Solaris

Dai Fujikura (*1977)
Solaris, Opera in 4 acts (2013/14)
based on Stanisław Lem's novel "SOLARIS"
libretto by Saburo Teshigawara, translated by Harry Ross and the composer

00:00:00 Day 1 (act 1)
00:12:26 Day 2 (act 2)
00:43:56 Day 3 (act 3)
01:02:12 Day 3 - midnight until sunrise
01:05:49 One week later (act 4)
01:07:08 A Few Weeks Later
01:14:10 The Next Day

Sarah Tynan, Hari
Tom Randle, Snaut
Leigh Melrose, Kris Kelvin
Callum Thorpe, Gibarian
Marcus Farnsworth, Kelvin

Saburo Teshigawara
Nicolas Le Riche
Rihoko Sato
Vaclav Kunes

Ensemble intercontemporain
Erik Nielsen, conductor

Saburo Teshigawara, stage direction/choreography/set design/costumes/lighting
Ulf Langheinrich, imaging/collaboration on lighting design
Rihoko Sato, assistant to the stage director
Matthias Härtig, images assistant
Sergio Pessanha, lighting/technical coordination for Saburo Teshigawara

Gilbert Nouno, musical computer programming

World Première, 07 March 2015, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

Co-commissioned by Théâtre des Champs Élysées, Opéra de Lille, Opéra de Lausanne, IRCAM and Ensemble Intercontemporain
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Interestingly, there are more contemporary operas based on "Solaris", the novel by Stanislaw Len.

For instance, this one below, written by Enrico Correggia back in 2011:

Do they base it on a book or on a picture by Tarkovski?
Tarkovski's movie itself is based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem.
Tarkovski's movie itself is based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem.
I know. 🙂 I meant an independent meaning of the movie as a work of art.
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