Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, part 20

by Megan Meister

This afternoon I was invited to attend a workshop for the first act of a new opera, OSCAR,   that will premiere in Santa Fe in the summer of 2013, that has been commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera and Opera Company of Philadelphia. The composer is Theodore Morrison, who was for many years on the faculty at the University of Michigan.  He has written a great deal of music, but this will be his first opera.  The libretto is by the composer, in collaboration with British stage director John Cox, and is based on the life and writings of Oscar Wilde, and was conceived as a vehicle for counter tenor David Daniels who will sing the title role.

The workshop had the luxury of David’s participation since he is already in Santa Fe this summer for performances of Vivaldi’s GRISELDA.  Also in today’s cast was soprano Heidi Stober, who will create the role of Ada Leverson in the opera’s premiere.   The workshop featured tenor  Jason Slayden, who was very compelling as Wilde’s friend Frank Harris.  Last night Jason stepped in to sing “Rodolfo” in LA BOHEME, then had to do the workshop this afternoon, and then sang “Andres” in this evening’s performance of WOZZECK.  The poor guy must be exhausted !

The workshop was attended by a lot of Santa Fe board members and potential donors to the project and their reaction to hearing the piece for the first time was very positive.  The composer conducted an ensemble of ten singers doing numerous roles, accompanied by just a piano and a battery of percussion.

It is a fascinating idea for an opera, and today’s audience seemed genuinely excited about what they heard in this special preview.

Tonight’s performance of WOZZECK was gripping, with an excellent cast headed by Richard Paul Fink in the title role. (Richard was “Alberich” in the Dallas Opera RING, and also sang “Scarpia” in Dallas opposite the “Tosca” of Carol Vaness.)   This WOZZECK is a revival of a Daniel Slater production that was first done in Santa Fe in 2001, and is very effective and quite powerful.  I particularly like the way the set begins to tilt at different angles as the title character begins to lose his tenuous grip on reality.

This was a really  interesting and productive day.

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