Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Twentieth century opera

We think of opera as stopping with Puccini and Strauss, and the rest of the twentieth century is just a vast wasteland. The September issue of Opera News had a complete list of operas that will be produced around the world this season, and twentieth century revivals are well represented.

Wozzeck and Lulu by Berg are still holding the stage, especially in Germany and Austria, but the numbers are low. One surprise is how much Benjamin Britten is being done all around the globe. I think it is time to say that he has crossed over to standard repertoire status. I have previously declared the arrival of Leos Janáček, but now Britten also rates. And he’s no one hit wonder: Billy Budd, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Turn of the Screw, Albert Herring, Death in Venice, The Rape of Lucretia--he’s everywhere. His plots are powerful and moving, and the music is worth hearing again.

I was interested in seeing of the rest of the revivals, how many have crossed the Atlantic in either direction. Kurt Weill lived and worked on both sides of the Atlantic and can’t really be said to cross over. He shows up in Lyon, Berlin and Dresden as well as St. Louis and Arizona.

Dead Man Walking is being produced in Dresden. Sophie’s Choice by a guy named Nicholas Maw is on for Berlin and Vienna. He is a teacher at Peabody in Baltimore. The English also like him, but I’ve never heard of him. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the subject matter is particularly European.

Surprisingly, musicals are the most common American theater to make the crossing. This year they are doing The Sound of Music in Vienna. What, not in Salzburg?

Crossing the Atlantic in the other direction is Englishman Thomas Ades’ The Tempest which is being produced in Santa Fe and Denmark. This opera is unusual because it is a relatively successful setting of Shakespeare in English. I guess this work is new and doesn’t really count. The Mines of Sulphur by Richard Rodney Bennett has been in existence for 40 years, but is just now making the crossing to the New York City opera.

Firmly in the standard repertoire on this side of the Atlantic are The dialogues of the Carmelites and La Voix Humane, both by Francis Poulenc. These operas can be seen in Texas, Vancouver and Melbourne.

The flow of material is much stronger from east to west than the other way around.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And just to tie this post to your previous one - La Voix Humaine will be performed in English in Melbourne.
I'll be there. We'll see whether it works or not. Though the soprano concerned is, shall we say, likely to make it work...