Friday, August 3, 2007

Free Films on August 4

In the spirit of this year's Orpheus themed-season, Glimmerglass is hosting free film screenings of Jean Cocteau's Orphée and Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus at the Fenimore Art Museum.
Cocteau's Orphée plays:
August 4 at 11:00 a.m.
August 16 at 3:30 p.m.
August 21 at 5:30 p.m.
Black Orpheus plays:
August 4 at 2:00 p.m.
August 18 at 11:00 a.m.
August 24 at 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Last Premiere

This Saturday marked the fourth and final opera premiere of the Glimmerglass 2007 season, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. The opera is a co-production between Glimmerglass and Opera North (Leeds, England). In 2008, Opera Norway will also produce the opera.

L'Orfeo is one of the most historically significant operas ever written. Although composers had experimented with combinations of music and drama before, the opera is generally considered the "first" opera and is certainly the earliest performed with any real regularity.

During a production seminar last Wednesday, conductor Antony Walker explained the evolution of opera before Monteverdi. "Fifty years before this was written, there were many documented, large-scale celebratory pieces that sometimes had a narrative going through them. A little analogy might be the musical theatre of today, which had a lot of spoken dialogue and then some songs as well. Then we had people asking, 'What did the Greeks used to do? What did they do with their dramas and how can we possibly hearken back to the Hellenic times and recreate what they might have done?' So, they came up with this sung recitation, which was accompanied by continuo-- it wasn't so much a song, but a narration."

As historically notable as the music is, director Christopher Alden strives to bring modernity to the production. "This version of the opera is very much about Orpheus as an artist. We're talking about art and what it means to be an artist. To me what's fascinating about this piece is Eurydice is like Orfeo's art, his muse, his creativity. It was so long before she gave in to him. That's when he created all this amazing music, out of his longing for her. And then, as soon as he gets it, she dies--it's taken away from him. When you want it, when you are really hungry for it, that's when you are creative, but as soon as you get that thing and are paid for it and are successful on some level, it's gone."

The opera is the centerpiece of the season, the one that General and Artistic Director Michael MacLeod built the season around to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its premiere. "I think it's extraordinarily lucky that in 2007, the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, that we have the chance to present it at Glimmerglass for the first time. In fact, that was the germ of the idea of having an entire season based on the Orpheus myth," MacLeod said.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Check Glimmerglass' newly updated recommendation list here. The list includes books, CDs, and DVDs relating to the 2007 season.

Monday, July 30, 2007

From the Screen to the Stage

Harry Potter's done it. So have the Geico cavemen and the Incredible Hulk. The crossing of a story from one medium to another is the current obsession of the western media. However, movie and TV producers aren't the only ones borrowing from another medium. More and more modern composers have taken their libretti from the stories already made popular by film.

This season, Glimmerglass Opera is presenting the genre-jumping opera Orphée by modern composer Philip Glass. The opera is based from Jean Cocteau's 1950 film by the same name. From 1993-1996 Glass wrote an entire opera trilogy based on the films of Jean Cocteau: Orphée, La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast), and Les enfants terribles (The Terrible Children). Each opera shows a closer merge between the genres. Glass composed Orphée by using Cocteau's screenplay as his libretto. Glass meant La belle et la bête to be performed as an concert opera, with the film without sound playing simultaneously in the background.
However innovative Glass' operas are, he is not the first or last composer to use a film as inspiration for an opera.


  • Dancing in the Dark by Poul Ruders, based on Lars Von Trier's award-winning film (2000) by the same name, which featured Bjork
  • The Fly by Howard Shore (Oscar-winning composer of Lord of the Rings) based on the David Cronenberg film (1986) by the same name which featured Jeff Goldblum. Placido Domingo will music-direct the production.

Composers are using films as inspiration for opera more and more, but currently it's far more common for novels to cross into operas. It's been happening for centuries.

  • Wagner--Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Rienzi, Last of the Tribunes
  • Tchaikovosky--Pushkin's Eugene Onegin
  • Richard Strauss--Wilde's Salome
  • Korngold--Die Tote Stadt after Rodenbach's Bruges la morte
  • Prokofiev- Tolstoy's War and Peace
  • Britten--Henry James' The Turn of the Screw
  • John Harbison--Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
  • Mark Adamo--Alcott's Little Women
  • Poul Ruders-- Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, Kafka's The Trial
  • Tobias Picker--An American Tragedy

However, many of these stories are best known by their classic film adaptations:

Images courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery.

Hot Links:
Cronenberg's The Fly to transform into an
Opera to retell classic tale of love and insecticide-The Sydney Morning Herald
New Opera to Be Based on Von Trier Film--AP
Lost Highway, Opera Based on David Lynch Film, Gets New York Premiere--Playbill Arts
Opera and Film: Can This Union Be Saved?--Washington Post
Opera by the Book--Village Voice
The Novel of the Opera--Norman Lebrecht