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Atmospheric But Not Dreary – The Boston Musical Intelligencer – Lyric Say

Odyssey Opera, in partnership with the Boston Fashionable Orchestra Undertaking (BMOP), presents the New England premiere of Dominick Argento’s opera The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe, on Friday, April 5, 2024, ay the Huntington Theater in Poe’s birthplace of Boston. For one-night solely, the Grammy Award-winning conductor Gil Rose leads a formidable solid together with tenor Peter Tantsits as Poe, the Odyssey Opera refrain, the acclaimed BMOP orchestra in a semi-staged model. A world premiere studio recording will comply with on BMOP/sound. Synopsis and historical past HERE. Tickets HERE  An interview with the conductor follows.

FLE: We’ve talked many instances, however I’ve by no means truly delved into your biography in any respect. So what guru or mentor fashioned your curiosity in in wanting up unjustly uncared for works?

GR: Oh, Wow, it’s a very good query. You stumped me proper out of the gate.

One person who had a giant impact on me was the writer Joe Horowitz. The arguments he made in a few of his books like “Understanding Toscanini” and “Wagner Nights and other ones. “The Ivory Trade”…  they simply resonated with me about one thing unhealthy in regards to the programs below which our orchestras and opera firms function. That’s the place all of it got here from.

I believe lots of people assume that concerning my work with BMOP and perhaps not a lot Odyssey Opera, that I’ve some ardour for advocating for brand new music, which is true, however that’s not the motivation. Quite I care about making a more healthy relationship between efficiency and viewers and repertoire than we now have proper now as a result of what we now have proper now could be a useless app. We hear the identical works again and again and again and again, although orchestras are digging their methods out of it a bit of bit higher than opera firms.

A number of organizations have to fret about sustainability and survival, however you’re fortunate. Over time you haven’t needed to elevate cash to help a big infrastructure you’re your funders have inspired you to do what you need with out having to make the case for field workplace enchantment.

That’s true, however the infrastructure choice was a acutely aware one. The second you begin constructing fastened value infrastructures, you want fastened incomes and if you begin having fastened incomes, you begin making selections that aren’t based mostly on inventive imaginative and prescient. And that’s what is preserving the group lean and imply was a acutely aware choice. Funders supported this imaginative and prescient and I haven’t had strain to do the “greatest hits.”

However, however the level is you could partially comply with your individual muse since you’re not having to go after some lowest frequent denominator,

 Yeah, completely.

 And also you’re not having to fill theaters. You need folks there but it surely’s not principally about that, since your legacy goes to be your recordings.

That is true.

Sure, we’ve talked about that earlier than. So let me get a bit of bit into the mechanics. What polestar do you give attention to in your odysseys of discovery? Are you solely contemplating works you could hear on recordings? Or are you a adequate rating reader you could drop into libraries and dig via works?

The web has made this complete train a bit simpler, however on the similar time a little bit of a rabbit gap. We don’t have to depart any query unanswered anymore. We simply ask Siri, ‘who was the vice president in 1887,’ and we all know instantly. We don’t even must get the Encyclopedia Britannica out anymore. After I was a child, that’s the way you discovered the solutions, you went to the library, you bought the encyclopedia by likelihood, however now you instantaneously get a solution. So if I wish to do a deep dive on operas which can be about poets, I can discover it inside two minutes. I can discover a web site that may listing a number of attention-grabbing ones for me. The web has made doable quite a lot of fast analysis.

But when it’s completely uncared for and hasn’t been recorded and doesn’t seem on YouTube, you’re not as more likely to uncover it.

Effectively, that’s not the case with The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe which doesn’t exist on YouTube.

Effectively, I found a few excerpts there.

There was a manufacturing about 9 years in the past in Germany that has some YouTube excerpts.

However you’ve recognized about you’ve recognized about Argento for years and have completed two or three different reveals based mostly on his work

Dominick is a composer I vastly admire, and really feel has unjustly gone out of vogue…not that it was ever in vogue; he was too good to be in vogue.
After I take heed to these excerpts from the Staatsopera Braunschweig and the Minneapolis Opera I reacted with critics’ adjectives: post-romantic. cinematic, unique, mysterious, wealthy with episodes… dare I say emotional?

Very emotional

A number of new music doesn’t do this not less than for me…The writer’s web site refers to 12-tone writing inside a predominantly tonal palette, but it surely doesn’t strike me that we’re even going to bear in mind notably of tone rows.

Dominick is a really attention-grabbing composer in how he makes use of the dodecaphonic method in non-rigid methods, intermixed with tonal writing.  You realize, it jogs my memory of Alban Berg in quite a lot of methods.

The system was by no means an finish in itself. It was a launching level. It gained’t actually even register.

Now the excerpt that I listened to look prefer it was 90 p.c orchestral, writing and solely 10 p.c vocal. However that may’t symbolize the combination in a 180-minute opera.

There’s a lot singing on this opera! It’s truly one of many massive challenges is pacing all people via the entire night. The lead Edgar Allan Poe character by no means leaves the stage.

It’s a really taxing function, and the truth that we’re performing it after which going straight into recording the following day leads to one in all my largest challenges: How will we hold the tempo going with out burning anyone out?

Once more, in  the excerpts, I heard the orchestral writing appeared virtually extra vocal than the vocal writing by way of lyrical line.

It’s not like there’s not set numbers. There’s a symphonic nature to it.

Is it true that a few of the vocal writing sounds type of extra instrumental than vocal?

Yeah, that is perhaps a operate of these excerpts, proper? However that’s not an inaccurate description, Dominique was actually a singer’s composer. He wrote all kinds of music, however vocal music is basically what he’s recognized for—each choral and operatic. So the voice just isn’t dealt with the way in which some opera composers would deal with it. The orchestra and the singers are a part of the identical material for positive.


The librettist Christopher Nolte was a beautiful main man,  and he was apparently near Argento for many years. And it, I’m wondering if, if there was some reference to Menotti and Barber as effectively.

I by no means requested  Dominick about that although. Dominick and Nolte weren’t in the identical sort of relationship as Barber and Menotti. Dominick was concerned with girls, not with males. I don’t recall having talked about Menotti’s or Barber’s music with him, however Dominick brings comparable theatrical craftsmanship to the desk.

How a lot the of the libretto is Poe? And the way a lot of it’s Nolte?

A number of it freely resets Poe’s poetry, fairly than giving a set studying of a poem.

We’ll have librettos within the foyer referred to as as a result of we’re not doing tremendous titles. The piece, as you’ve famous, may be very thick and so typically persons are singing on the similar time totally different texts. The story just isn’t simple to know, and because it’s a semi-staged manufacturing, it’s not obtained the readability from tons of surroundings. The story’s very convoluted, but it surely’s an extravagant one advised fairly shortly. So I simply thought the perfect likelihood of actually understanding it was to have the libretto which incorporates detailed stage instructions.

So, inform us a bit of bit in regards to the lead singer Peter Cousins.

I labored with Peter 15 years in the past after I carried out Cerise Jacobs’s manufacturing of Zhou Lengthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Madame White Snake . We stayed in contact through the years and I attempted to get him in for a pair issues right here and there, but it surely by no means labored out till now.

The opera calls for a selected sort of voice. It’s very excessive and has a number of notes.
The tenor within the unique manufacturing virtually melted down a pair days earlier than the opening as a result of it’s so vocally demanding. The very advanced writing and tons of fabric additionally place super calls for on reminiscence. In a bootleg recording from the entrance row, I may hear the prompter rather a lot… and the tenor virtually walked out of the present.

Are you going to cowl him?

We’re not speaking about that as a result of we don’t wish to tempt fates.

No, I don’t imply that sort of overlaying!  I wonderer whether or not, for the reason that orchestra’s presumably not going to be in a pit whether or not steadiness is perhaps problematical with the advanced scoring.

With the singers out entrance steadiness might be okay, however may result in issues with coordination.


How typically have you ever produced one thing that you simply thought was unjustly uncared for solely to find that the neglect was justified?

By no means, and, in fact, if you file them, it’s a must to undergo the enhancing course of, which implies you’ll take heed to it again and again and again and again. As you’re employed via the enhancing.   Dominick’s one of many few composers for whom, after I’ve gone via the whole technique of studying, the rating performing the piece recording it and enhancing it, I’m studying new issues in regards to the piece, even on the finish of the method, and that’s uncommon.

Dominick’s music is instantly engaging to the viewers as a result of it’s listenable and communicative, however on the similar time, it’s very tightly constructed, with quite a lot of relational issues that reward a number of hearings.   Dominick performs some refined and infrequently subliminal tips that don’t register instantly.

Do you could have any concept why the opera hasn’t had lengthy legs?

It’s not brief. Mainly, the opera tells the story based mostly on a reality about Poe’s loss of life. He boarded a ship to Richmond, then seven days later was present in Baltimore, fairly out of his thoughts. The opera is mainly about what occurs between this boarding of this boat and his loss of life. It additionally brings in one other real-life character, his literary agent Griswold, who’s the villain of the opera.

Dominick units eight psychotic episodes in a fairly extravagant, improbable world. It’s a frightening piece to tackle as a full-blown manufacturing. The cash that will be required to do it on the highest degree is substantial.

After they did it in Chicago and Dallas within the 90s, they reduce a few third. We’re not chopping it as a result of, since we’re recording it; we’re beholden to drag all of it off by hook or criminal.

Miss Havisham’s Hearth is uncared for however his smaller works like Casanova’s Homecoming and Postcard from Morocco—the one acts—have lives typically in schools and conservatories, as a result of, they’re doable. Poe’s Voyage, against this, is a giant, massive, roiling monster.

Once more, that made me consider Menotti. He made all these TV operas that ran 55 minutes they usually’re all the time being completed by group schools and conservatories and so forth.

They’re good as a result of the singers can deal with them at that stage and their growth, however   Dominick’s greater operas are for actually superior singing.


What number of potential productions are spinning in your head proper now?  Are a number of candidates competing with one another in your curiosity?

I’ve a really intensive bucket listing and it doesn’t get smaller. It will get bigger. My aim is to provide attention-grabbing and worthwhile works one other life. There’s loads of these works obtainable. They type of come on as initiatives one after the other and there’s already stuff within the works for subsequent 12 months. We’ve been utilizing this ‘voyaging metaphor’ about our journeys and our voyages. There’s heaps on the market for us and I simply hope we are able to proceed to do it and do it effectively.

All of us actually admire how your ego works. It’s not about you and the highlight. It’s about your recorded legacy; we’re all the higher for that.

Thanks. That’s a really good factor to listen to.

Dominick Argento: The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe (1975-76)

April 5th on the Huntington Theater

Tickets HERE

Composer:   Dominick Argento (1927-2019)
Librettist: Charles Nolte (1923-2010)
Edgar Allan Poe: Peter Tantsits (tenor)
Griswold.: Tom Meglioranza (baritone)
Virginia Poe: Maggie Finnegan (soprano)
Physician: Neal Ferreira (tenor)
Mrs. Poe: Kirsten Arnold (soprano)
Mrs. Clemm: Felicia Gavilanes (mezzo-soprano)
Mrs. Allan: Christina English (mezzo-soprano)
Director: Anne Harley
Theatre Director: David Salsbery Fry
Conductor: Gil Rose
Musicians: Boston Fashionable Orchestra Undertaking and Odyssey Opera refrain

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