"Tomorrow's Valhalla: Critics Weigh in on Standout Operas of Recent Decades"
The New York Times, January 5, 2014
As longtime perusers of this blog already know, I always enjoy features in which all the classical-music reviewers for The New York Times are asked to mix it up on a single topic. I missed posting the recent Verdi roundup late last year and will eventually get around to resurfacing it. But I wanted to share this new piece – a speculative look at which operas composed since 1976 have grabbed a spot in the repertoire, and which ones ought to – promptly, for a handful of reasons.
Firstly, the more people who enter the fray, the better. A reasonably good number of smart comments have been attached to this article on the Times website, offering a number of alternative choices. I've read a smidgen of feedback on Twitter as well, though it's a bit harder to dig up. Naturally, there's a lot of great chatter on Facebook, much of it having to do with how much American and English music is included on the list; how unrealistic the idea of the Met championing Birtwistle is; and how outrageous it is that certain distinguished American composers – Dominick Argento, Conrad Susa and Daron Hagen foremost among them – are absent. (For the record, I agree with all three points to some extent.)
Second, my championing of Robert Ashley's Perfect Lives prompted one of its co-conspirators, Peter Gordon, to reveal that Vidas Perfectas, the Spanish-language adaptation of Ashley's collaborative magnum opus that Gordon and Alex Waterman have been working on for some time now, will be presented as part of the 2014 Whitney Biennial. I'd heard from an inside source that at least part of Vidas Perfectas was coming to the Whitney, but Gordon says that the plan is to present all seven sections. The dates, subject to confirmation, are April 18-20 and 25-27.
Finally, regarding Dog Days by David T. Little and Royce Vavrek… ah, but I've said too much already. (Stay tuned.)
Meanwhile, go see some new opera this week. There's so much to choose from! The second annual PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now festival, which I briefed in today's Times, opens on Wednesday night. Everything looks promising, but reliable sources have convinced me that Thumbprint, by Kamala Sankaram and Susan Yankowitz, will be something truly extraordinary.
Elsewhere, the Bronx Opera Company is presenting the New York premiere of Kirke Mechem's The Rivals, which opened at Milwaukee's Skylight Music Theatre in 2011, on Saturday and Sunday in the Bronx, and on the following Saturday and Sunday in Manhattan. Also opening on Saturday night and repeating on Sunday afternoon is Here Be Sirens, by Wet Ink composer Kate Soper, staged by Morningside Opera at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side. I wrote about these shows here just a few days ago, and also penned a quick preview of Soper's opera for the coming week's issue of Time Out New York, but reckoned they merited one more plug amid today's heady context.