Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

Glyndebourne Announces the Return of the Glyndebourne Opera Cup in 2020

Glyndebourne’s major new international singing competition returns in 2020 with a renewed commitment to supporting diversity in opera. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup - the international competition for opera singers is designed to discover and spotlight the best young singers around the world, offering a top prize of £15,000 and a guaranteed role at a leading international opera house. The final will once again be broadcast live on Sky Arts on 7 March 2020 and the series is produced by Factory Films.

Garsington Opera: Five Young Singers Win Prestigious Awards

Winners of this year’s prestigious Leonard Ingrams Foundation awards are mezzo-soprano Bianca Andrew and tenor Oliver Johnston. These awards support, encourage and nurture the best young artists involved in the creative process of bringing opera to the stage, and are made in memory of Garsington Opera’s founder Leonard Ingrams, to ensure the continuity of his vision.

Bill Bankes-Jones on the twelfth Tête à Tête Opera Festival

“We need to stop talking about ‘diversity’ and think instead about ‘inclusivity’,” says Bill Bankes-Jones, when we meet to talk about the forthcoming twelfth Tête à Tête Opera Festival which runs from 24th July to 10th August.

The Italian Opera Connection at ‘The English Versailles’: The Duchess of Buccleuch and the Georgian Stage at Boughton House

As part of its annual programme of events, Boughton House in Northamptonshire hosts ‘A Passion for Opera’, a rare exhibition portraying the musical life of Lady Elizabeth Montagu (1743–1827) and the world of Georgian operatic culture.

An interview with composer Dani Howard

The young Hong Kong-born British composer Dani Howard is having quite a busy year.

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycle

Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced both schedules and cast-lists for is Spring 2020 performances of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Given the series of individual productions already staged by the company since Fall 2016, that pave the way for the complete cycle, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s complete production should affirm the artistic might of the great composer.

Irish mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy on Salzburg, Sellars and Singing

For Peter Sellars, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a ‘visionary’ work, a utopian opera centred on a classic struggle between a father and a son written by an angry 25-year-old composer who wanted to show the musical establishment what a new generation could do.

London Bel Canto Festival 2019: an interview with Ken Querns-Langley

“Physiognomy, psychology and technique.” These are the three things that determine the way a singer’s sound is produced, so Ken Querns-Langley explains when we meet in the genteel surroundings of the National Liberal Club, where the training programmes, open masterclasses and performances which will form part the third London Bel Canto Festival will be held from 5th-24th August.

The Royal Opera Tours to Japan in September 2019

The Royal Opera is delighted to be returning to Japan in September 2019 as part of an exciting year of UK-Japan exchanges, titled UK in Japan 2019-20, following the Company’s hugely successful tour in autumn 2015.

Longborough Festival Opera announces collaboration with The Academy of Ancient Music in 2020

Longborough Festival Opera will collaborate with the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) for its production of Monteverdi The Return of Ulysses in 2020. Robert Howarth will conduct Monteverdi’s beautiful, compassionate drama, with Tom Randle in the title role.

Glyndebourne’s first production of Dialogues des Carmélites to open Glyndebourne Festival 2020

Glyndebourne’s first production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites will open Glyndebourne Festival 2020, it was announced today. The opera house unveiled its 2020 plans at an event in its recently built Production Hub, hosted by Glyndebourne’s new senior leadership team, Artistic Director Stephen Langridge and Managing Director Sarah Hopwood, who jointly replace the former position of General Director.

Garsington Opera Announces 2020 season and 2019 Paris Performance

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce the 2020 season that will open on 28 May, featuring three new productions - Verdi’s Un giorno di regno, Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto, Dvořák’s Rusalka and a revival of John Cox’s legendary production of Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Un ballo in maschera at Investec Opera Holland Park: in conversation with Alison Langer

“Sop. Page, attendant on the King.” So, reads a typical character description of the loyal page Oscar, whose actions, in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, unintentionally lead to his monarch’s death. He reveals the costume that King Gustavo is wearing at the masked ball, thus enabling the monarch’s secretary, Anckarstroem, to shoot him. The dying King falls into the faithful Oscar’s arms.

Martin Duncan directs the first UK staging of Offenbach's Fantasio at Garsington

A mournful Princess forced by her father into an arranged marriage. A Prince who laments that no-one loves him for himself, and so exchanges places with his aide-de-camp. A melancholy dreamer who dons a deceased jester’s motley and finds himself imprisoned for impertinence.

Thomas Larcher's The Hunting Gun at the Aldeburgh Festival: in conversation with Peter Schöne

‘Aloneness’ does not immediately seem a likely or fruitful subject for an opera. But, loneliness and isolation - an individual’s inner sphere, which no other human can truly know or enter - are at the core of Yasushi Inoue’s creative expression.

The London Handel Festival and The Royal Opera announce a co-production of Handel’s Susanna starring members of The Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme

The London Handel Festival and The Royal Opera today [14 May 2019] announced a co-production of Handel’s oratorio Susanna as part of the 2020 London Handel Festival. The new production, performed in English in the Linbury Theatre [5 - 14 March 2020], will star members and Link Artists from The Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. Handel’s Susanna was written for Covent Garden and had its premiere on the site in 1749, but has not been performed at Covent Garden since.

Royal Opera House announces 17 new productions for its 2019/20 Season

The Royal Opera House today launches its 2019/20 Season, unveiling an exciting range of new commissions, world premieres and much-loved revivals, supported by a diverse range of ticketed and free daytime events, activities and festivals for people of all ages. In the first full Season since the completion of the Royal Opera House’s three-year Open Up renovation, The Royal Opera Company unveils a host of innovative new work, with 13 new productions, including two world premieres, in the Season ahead.

In interview with Polly Graham, Artistic Director of Longborough Festival Opera

What links Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Cavalli’s La Calisto? It sounds like the sort of question Paul Gambaccini might pose to contestants on BBC Radio 4’s music quiz, Counterpoint.

Carlo Diacono: L’Alpino

“Diacono himself does not know what musical talent he possesses” – Mascagni

Daniel Kramer to step down as English National Opera’s Artistic Director

Daniel Kramer is to step down as ENO’s Artistic Director at the end of July 2019 in order to focus on directing more opera and theatre full time.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

10 Nov 2004

Haroun and the Sea of Stories at NYC Opera

An American master premieres at City Opera An interview with Charles Wuorinen 10/26/2004 The world premiere of Haroun and the Sea of Stories features an inspired cross-section of artists among the most respected in their disciplines: Salman Rushdie, one of...

An American master premieres at City Opera

An interview with Charles Wuorinen
10/26/2004

The world premiere of Haroun and the Sea of Stories features an inspired cross-section of artists among the most respected in their disciplines: Salman Rushdie, one of the most original and controversial authors writing today; poet James Fenton, who adapted Rushdie's book for the opera's libretto; and stage director Mark Lamos, the director of City Opera's celebrated Madama Butterfly production, among others.

Charles Wuorinen

At the head of the team is Charles Wuorinen, the innovative and accomplished American composer Vogue Magazine calls "a master of lushly orchestrated modernism." His enormous range of fascinations and musical ideas is reflected in his 235 compositions: from Natural Fantasy, his work for organ inspired by fractal geometry, to his setting of a W.H. Auden poem for tenor and piano entitled September 11, 2001. With his 1970 electronic composition Time's Encomium, Wuorinen became the youngest composer to receive the Pulitzer Prize in music.

In this interview, Wuorinen discusses the genesis of the opera from Rushdie's original to its long-awaited premiere performance--this Sunday at City Opera.

[Remainder of article here (no registration required)]

[Click here for a synopsis of the opera.]


A long time coming

By Stacey Kors [Financial Times]
Published: October 29 2004 17:17 | Last updated: October 29 2004 17:17

Haroun and the Sea of Stories, an opera by American modernist composer Charles Wuorinen and based on the children's book by Salman Rushdie, was due to premiere at New York City Opera in the autumn of 2001. But following the terrorist attacks on September 11, US arts organisations went into freefall as ticket sales plummeted. The opera, like many new projects, was shelved. A decade after Rushdie created his fanciful fable about freedom of speech and imagination in defiance of one form of Islamic fundamentalism, the opera it inspired had been silenced by another.

Few had imagined that western freedoms could be so brutally attacked on western soil. Rushdie was the exception. In 1988, when Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini forced Rushdie underground by placing a fatwa on him following the publication of The Satanic Verses, Rushdie says he tried to make the point. "Nobody wanted to look at that," he says. "Now everybody wants to look at that. Clearly what happened on 9/11 was on a scale so much larger than what happened to me that it almost seems improper to compare them. But I do think that I was the prologue. I was the overture; this is the symphony."

Tomorrow night, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, an opera for children and adults, will finally be heard - NYCO's music director George Manahan will conduct. "In a weird way," says Wuorinen, "this piece has a very strong relevance coming up a little bit after the third anniversary of September 11. Salman was the only one who knew it back then," he adds solemnly. "Now we all know it."

[Click here for remainder of aritcle (subscription to Financial Times Online required).]


The Fatwa That Begat an Opera

October 31, 2004

By JOHANNA KELLER [NY Times]

EVER since 9/11, I feel as if we are all in the same boat that used to be occupied only by Salman Rushdie," said the composer Charles Wuorinen. Mr. Wuorinen's opera "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," based on Mr. Rushdie's 1990 novel of that name, will receive its premiere today at the New York City Opera.

"He used to just be someone living under a threat," Mr. Wuorinen said of Mr. Rushdie. "But now we all are, because of this Islamic fascism that doesn't want to negotiate but instead wants to kill us all. People who don't see that are just whistling in the dark."

The novel's intricate plot and memorable characters attracted Mr. Wuorinen, but he was as much moved, he says, by the circumstances of the novel's composition. Mr. Rushdie wrote it while under the shadow of a 1989 fatwa that called for his assassination as punishment for writing the novel "The Satanic Verses." (The fatwa was officially rescinded in 1998.)

"Given Rushdie's circumstances during that terrible time," Mr. Wuorinen said recently at his home on the Upper West Side, "there is an admirable absence of self-pity and bitterness in 'Haroun.' The book goes under the guise of a lighthearted tale written for children, but there is a social and political message against people who want to shut everyone up and strangle the imagination."

[Click here for remainder of article (free registration required).]


Giving a Complex Voice to a Fable About Free Expression

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI [NY Times]

Published: November 1, 2004

The composer Charles Wuorinen has long spoken with dismay about the populist push he sees shaping the world of serious music, a trend he wants no part of. He made similar comments recently in anticipation of the premiere of his opera "Haroun and the Sea of Stories."

"Haroun" had its much-awaited premiere yesterday afternoon in a vibrant, colorful and well-received production at the New York City Opera, and Mr. Wuorinen, it can be reported, has stayed true to his sober aesthetic convictions.

There are impressive and entertaining aspects to the new opera, starting with its elegant and economical libretto by the poet James Fenton, based on Salman Rushdie's fantastical 1990 novel for children. Still, Mr. Wuorinen has long been a formidably complex composer and an uncompromising advocate of 12-tone techniques, and his score for "Haroun" never lets you forget this. There are brilliant, even ingenious, qualities in the music. But where the words and story would seem to call for simplicity, lyricism, warmth, whimsy, some space to breathe and ruminate, Mr. Wuorinen holds back. An undercurrent of rigorous complexity never lets up.

It's not easy for me to write this because I, too, have looked warily at what Mr. Wuorinen calls the populist push in opera. Composers, audiences and company directors have been too quick to play it safe and embrace musically tepid, Neo-Romantic styles. Overall there has been frustrating resistance to composers who use challenging musical languages.

But the music in an opera must serve the text, the singers and the dramatic impetus of the story. Complexity must be warranted and effective, as it is in great operas of the past by composers like Berg and Messiaen, or in more recent works by Poul Ruders, Kaija Saariaho, Thomas Adès and others. The complexity of Mr. Wuorinen's score too often intrudes on, distracts from and deadens the drama.

[Click here for remainder of article (free registration required).]


Legends, Lessons, and Lies

By Julie Squire [Playbill Arts]
November 1, 2004

Haroun and the Sea of Stories, City Opera's 28th world premiere, argues eloquently for the importance of "stories that aren't even true."

"What's the use of stories that aren't even true?" For young Haroun Khalifa, eponymous hero of Charles Wuorinen and James Fenton's new opera based on Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, that is the question, and a terrible one at that. It is the Khalifas' neighbor, Mr. Sengupta, who, with delectable disdain, first doubts the value of stories. This is incomprehensible to the 11-year-old Haroun. After all, he is the son of Soraya, singer of enticing dream worlds, and the renowned storyteller Rashid. There are no ifs, ands, or buts here--stories are Haroun's life.

But then one day, as is wont to happen, something goes wrong: Haroun's mother stops singing and runs away with the weaselly Mr. Sengupta, a man utterly devoid of imagination. To make matters worse, his father goes on a rampage and destroys all the clocks in the house, including Haroun's. That is the final straw, prompting the child to shout the fateful question at his father. The result is devastating — Rashid loses his ability to tell stories — and Haroun will spend the rest of the opera trying to take back those agonizing words.

[Click here for remainder of article.]


Good-Time Charlie

Charles Wuorinen's Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a modernist twelve-tone opera that

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):