To the Opera: Older is Better…
To the English National Opera to see their production of the opera Caligula by composer Detlev Glanert. People have been praising the direction by Benedict Andrews and the conducting of the gifted Ryan Wigglesworth; as well as the commitment and dramatic intelligence of the cast. Wow, I thought. Also, I know and am fascinated by the Camus play (which was done in London not that long ago with the compellingly and memorably brilliant Caligula of Michael Sheen); and as for this score, on first hearing I liked a lot of the sonorities of the orchestration. I also think that the second half does lift the work. If you accept all the givens of this idiom and this approach to contemporary opera writing, then you have to admire the whole. A fascinating old Emperor in modern clothes!
However, I find that despite whipping myself about it, I just cannot accept it. My spirit balks. My mind goes numb. For me the vocal lines seem to be doing nothing much, so why not just have the play with incidental music? What I find myself wanting to know is when this kind of academically correct music writing (that used to get aspiring composing students an A+ at Princeton or Yale in the 1970s) is actually going to be perceived as a dead end with no actual dramatic heft, not much room for any individuality of voice (everything sounds like a rip-off of late Berg without the lyricism), and minimal ability to communicate with the general audience? Or to carry the emotional weight of a story?
I modestly submit, on the other hand, that there is an infallible antidote: early opera. And If you’re interested in early opera (how could you not be?) or curious about how it all got started, come and join me at the Cadogan Hall in London from 9 – 11 October and enjoy total immersion for three days. We’ve got lectures; we’ve got live demonstrations by the Royal Northern College of Music’s top students; and Master Classes by soprano Lynne Dawson (who sang at Princess Diana’s funeral) and Professor Stefan Janski, who heads the college in Manchester.
You will meet the performers and the professors! You will learn not only how to stage an opera by Monteverdi or Cavalli, but how Lully cunningly took opera to France and developed the French style! You will find out everything you ever wanted to know about early opera’s ambassadors to history―the Castrati! And you will discover how this fabulous art form took flight just over four hundred years ago and why its pleasures remain so seductive today.
Until the advent of the cinema, Opera was the the most popular art form in Western culture and a central artistic and social experience–the common denominator that united Aristocrat and Everyman. For a unique and intimate experience shared with insiders: join us