Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Opera Matters; Or Why Can't The Washington NATIONAL Opera Find An American Opera To Program During Its 2008-09 Season, As Promised To U.S. Congress

Dominick Argento and Charles M. Nolte's "The Voyage of Edgar Allen Poe", an American opera, could soon be waiting in the bullpen to be locally premiered by Placido Domingo's Washington National Opera, which promised Congress, in exchange for the NATIONAL moniker, to stage one American classical opera each and every season. The otherwise distinguished and responsible company has managed to stage an American opera only about one-half the time, and it has not yet announced the American classical opera that it intends to stage in the 2008-09 season.

Here is a fascinating review, by James Wierzbicki, of the 1990 production of "The Voyage of Edgar Allen Poe" by the distinguished Chicago Lyric Opera company (which premiered the fine Bolcom, Weinstein, and Miller, "A View from the Bridge", which was the last American opera the Washington National Opera produced, as promised to Congress and the American people). [The often highly imaginative Minnesota Opera commissioned and premiered "The Voyage of Edgar Allen Poe" in 1976, the last great year for new American classical opera.]


James Wierzbicki "The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe"

CHICAGO -- THE SUFFERING ARTIST has long been a popular figure in American and European fiction. He emerged when suffering first became fashionable, at the end of the 18th century, when ancient regimes were bowing to new democracies and when the first blooms of the literary movement known as romanticism were heralding the start of ''modern'' culture. And he rose to prominence almost overnight; especially during romanticism's early years, Goethe's Werther and his literary cousins were the role models the in-crowd sought to emulate. ...

It is certainly the essence of Dominick Argento's ''The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe,'' an opera from 1976 that has recently been revived by the Chicago Lyric Opera. The work was inspired by the mysterious journey that Poe took just before his death in October of 1849. Normally, the boat trip from Richmond, Va., to Baltimore lasted 48 hours; on this occasion, it took five days, and to date no one knows why." ...

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Nov. 18, 1990 [see bottom of linked page for full review]


Why isn't the current Washington National Opera interested in American history, literature, and culture?

The San Francisco Opera and the Dallas Opera are both producing world premieres of new American operas based upon classical and classical contemporary American literature.

Meet the new American National General Directors of the San Francisco Opera Company and the Dallas Opera Company: David Gockley and George Steel, both with deep roots in American history and culture.

Photo credit: The U.S.S. Monitor Onandaga. U.S. Library of Congress via http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/. With thanks.


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