Given the state of the American economy and wealth moving more heavily to those who always had money, there is no surprise that opera companies like New York City Opera are drastically scaling back. The middle class cannot afford the cultural extras like a night at the opera. Therefore, announcements about world premieres should excite more interest since there are so many financial challenges. Here is a list of new operas making their world premieres in the United States during the Fall 2011-Winter-Spring 2012 season. There may be others, but these are the operas, this writer knows about.
September 10-30, 2011, San Francisco, CA, San Francisco Opera.
September 16 – October 2, 2011, Milwaukee,WI, Skylight Opera Theatre.
November 9-19, 2011, New York, NY, Gotham Chamber Opera.
November 12, 15, 17, 19 and 20, 2011, Minnesota, MN, Minnesota Opera.
December 9,10,16, 17, 2011, Boston, MA, Boston Metro Opera.
January 16-May 25, 2012, Houston, TX, Opera to Go.
The Clever Wife: A Chinese Folktale (elementary-middle school students)
Music by Mary Carol Warwick
Libretto by Hugh Behm-Steinberg
Duration: 45 min.
Story: A clever wife rescues her husband from impossible tasks.
June 2012, Philadelphia, PA,CenterCity Opera.
July 2012, Boston, MA, Boston Metro Opera.
So here is a schedule of eight new operas by seven United States opera companies located in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Minnesota,Houston, and San Francisco. Two of these operas (Puss in Boots, The Clever Wife) caterer to children. Two of these operas (Puss in Boots, The Big Bonanza) are by one opera company (Boston Metro Opera). One (Dark Sisters) will have two productions in two cities (NYC and Philadelphia). Just a heads up, Opera to Go is sponsored by the Houston Grand Opera.
As to subject matter, the range moves from classic works (The Rivals, Puss in Boots, The Clever Wife) and historic (Silent Night, The Big Bonanza) to current day themes (Heart of a Soldier, Dark Sisters, Slaying the Dragon) and fanciful (A Way Home).
Musically, this writer believes, based on sampling sound clips from the various composers, that all of these new works are mostly tonal and accessible and will not require extensive experience with new opera music to appreciate these works. Here are some examples: music clips in production video from Dark Sisters, sound clips from The Big Bonanza, and sound clips from the musical oeuvre of Christopher Theofanidis (Heart of a Soldier).
If this writer could only see three of these operas, she would find the choice hard but would pick Heart of a Soldier because she finds Theofanidis' music samples appealing and knows the good writing of librettist Donna DiNovelli and recently this writer heard some of DiNovelli's work at Vox 2011. This writer would also pick Dark Sisters because she is following the career of mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, one of the Dark Sisters cast members. Choice number three would be Slaying the Dragon because this writer is interested in the subject matter. However, these six full-length opera and two short operas for children all offer artists of documented experience.
Based on a state-of-the-art article this writer developed in 2005 on contemporary opera, this season's number of new operas seems relatively comparable to the number offered in 2005. However, the noticeable difference in 2005-2006 versus the 2011-2012 season is that major opera companies like the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, LA Opera, and Washington Opera were more active in presenting new works. Despite current day financial challenges, the artists and the opera companies are continuing to push ahead with vigor. Some productions do it by cutting corners and using only a piano accompaniment. It remains to be seen how successful the box office will be for each new work, but hopefully the artists and the opera companies are working hard at a grassroots level to gather in their audiences.