John Adams's New Mozart Inspired Opera

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
Ralph
Dittersdorf Specialist & CMG NY Host
Posts: 20996
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 6:54 am
Location: Paradise on Earth, New York, NY

John Adams's New Mozart Inspired Opera

Post by Ralph » Sun Feb 25, 2007 10:40 pm

SFGate
Adams' new opera 'A Flowering Tree' rooted in Mozart's 'The Magic Flute'

Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic

Saturday, February 24, 2007
John Adams had less than a year to write the piece, but t...

Like some fairy tale spring that never runs dry, the eloquence and freshness of Mozart's music continue to inspire composers two and a half centuries after his death.

The latest opus to draw on those strains is "A Flowering Tree," John Adams' new opera of love and redemption that gets its U.S. premiere beginning Thursday with the composer conducting the San Francisco Symphony.

The libretto, which Adams crafted with his longtime collaborator Peter Sellars, is based on an American Indian folk legend. But the original impetus behind the work, Adams says, is "The Magic Flute," that miraculous blend of subtle craftsmanship and pop accessibility that Mozart wrote just months before he died.

"This was about three years ago, and Peter had been appointed to run this festival in Vienna based on the last year of Mozart's life," Adams told a press gathering last month.

"I remember we were standing around backstage at the Barbican Centre in London talking about this, and I just said, 'I want to do "The Magic Flute" -- let Kaija (Saariaho) do the Requiem.' It was a bunch of deeply irresponsible people, none of whom had their schedules with them, getting deeply involved with something without thinking."

Adams had less than a year to write the piece, and originally planned a terse 50-minute score. But by the time of last year's premiere, at the New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna (named for the Masons), the work had burgeoned into a full two-act opera.

The story, which is related with help from a narrator as well as Spanish-language choruses and Javanese dancers, tells of Kumudha, a poor, beautiful maiden who has the mystical ability to transform herself into a blossoming tree.

At first, she and her sister merely sell the flowers to help support their elderly mother, but soon a prince discovers her powers and successfully woos her. Further complications ensue, spurred on by the jealousy of the prince's sister, before the two lovers -- now sadder and wiser -- are finally reunited.

For Adams, the link to "The Magic Flute" lies both in the theme of "moral and spiritual transformation" and in the expressive directness that both pieces share.

"I remember a long time ago reading Charles Rosen's book 'The Classical Style,' " he said during a recent phone conversation, "and being very affected by the realization that 'Magic Flute' and some of Mozart's other very late music went in the direction of being popular music.

"And of course in my own work, I go in and out of embracing the vernacular. And coming out of the dark psychological turmoil of 'Doctor Atomic' " -- his 2005 opera about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the making of the first atomic bomb -- "I felt the need to do something about hope and simplicity."

Adams has immersed himself in popular music before, most notably in his hard-to-classify 1995 music theater piece "I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky." But the score of "A Flowering Tree," as heard in a recording of the Vienna premiere, nods less to the world of the pop song than to the kind of open, straightforward writing of Mozart's populist vein.

The rhythms are bright and ebullient, the harmonies are relatively free of complexity, and the melodic lines move with a sinuous clarity. Getting to that level of expressive transparency, Adams says, was a daunting task.

"I almost killed myself last summer getting this done. Writing something simple is much more difficult, because you have to keep saying, 'No, not that,' and refining it down into something that pleases you."

Most striking is the phantasmagorical orchestral music that Adams has composed for Kumudha's metamorphoses. It's an echo of Richard Strauss' opera "Daphne," whose protagonist also changes into a tree, although Adams claims not to like Strauss.

"Unlike Strauss, who got only one transformation to compose, here there's four. And the transformations are much more disturbing than Kumudha anticipates. It's as though she had casually dropped acid, and now it's not going to be just a regular Saturday night."

"A Flowering Tree" is the latest in a long string of collaborations between Adams and Sellars, one that also includes the operas "Nixon in China" and "The Death of Klinghoffer" as well as "Ceiling/Sky" and the Nativity oratorio "El Niño."

They met in 1983 at the Monadnock Music Festival in New Hampshire, and Adams says he was impressed by Sellars' "deep love and knowledge of music."

Sellars, in turn -- with his first astonishing theatrical productions of the operas of Handel and Mozart still ahead of him -- was dazzled by the combination of intellectual seriousness and sensual allure in Adams' music.

"They played this piece called 'Shaker Loops,' " he recalled, "and it was so hot compared with other American music of the time that just tried to impress you with its braininess. There were these touching Beethoven parts and these deep Bruckner structures.

"John's music was brainy too, but it also had great legs."
San Francisco Symphony: “A Flowering Tree.” John Adams, conductor. 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Through March 3. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco. Tickets: $31-$114. Call (415) 864-6000 or go to www.sfsymphony.org.

E-mail Joshua Kosman at jkosman@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f ... O9L9R1.DTL

This article appeared on page F - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Image

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

Agnes Selby
Author of Constanze Mozart's biography
Posts: 5568
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 3:27 am
Location: Australia

Adams

Post by Agnes Selby » Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:00 am

This I must hear. I wonder if this opera could stand on its own
without alluding to Mozart? Somehow, I do not see the connection,
correct me if I am wrong.

Regards,
Agnes.

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Adams

Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:19 am

Agnes Selby wrote:This I must hear.
You'll have to tell me about it. I'd rather listen to a garbage disposal malfunction.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Agnes Selby
Author of Constanze Mozart's biography
Posts: 5568
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 3:27 am
Location: Australia

Re: Adams

Post by Agnes Selby » Mon Feb 26, 2007 6:43 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Agnes Selby wrote:This I must hear.
You'll have to tell me about it. I'd rather listen to a garbage disposal malfunction.
---------------------------

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: I did not promise to listen to it all! :cry: :cry:

------------------

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2409
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Adams

Post by diegobueno » Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:31 pm

Agnes Selby wrote:This I must hear. I wonder if this opera could stand on its own
without alluding to Mozart? Somehow, I do not see the connection,
correct me if I am wrong.

Regards,
Agnes.
Sometimes the connection is only in the artist's head, a kind of conceptual starting point not necessarily visible in the finished product. "Die Frau ohne Schatten" was supposed to be Strauss' Zauberflöte.

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Adams

Post by DavidRoss » Wed Feb 28, 2007 10:08 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Agnes Selby wrote:This I must hear.
You'll have to tell me about it. I'd rather listen to a garbage disposal malfunction.
Whenever you write something disparaging about Adams (like this), I can't help but wonder with whom you've confused him.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Adams

Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Mar 01, 2007 3:10 am

DavidRoss wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Agnes Selby wrote:This I must hear.
You'll have to tell me about it. I'd rather listen to a garbage disposal malfunction.
Whenever you write something disparaging about Adams (like this), I can't help but wonder with whom you've confused him.
Nobody. And I don't like Glass either. De gustibus, David.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

MahlerSnob
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu May 26, 2005 5:31 pm
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by MahlerSnob » Fri Mar 02, 2007 12:56 am

I have to wonder if any of you who are trashing Adams have actually heard any of his music. Grouping him with Glass is also unfare, as John has not written a piece of strict minimalism since Shaker Loops.... in 1978.
-Nathan Lofton
Boston, MA

WWBD - What Would Bach Do?

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Mar 02, 2007 4:59 am

MahlerSnob wrote:I have to wonder if any of you who are trashing Adams have actually heard any of his music.
Of course I have. I wouldn't know I can't stand it if I hadn't.
Grouping him with Glass is also unfare
Noise is noise. Just two days ago I watched The Illusionist wishing there was some way to mute the music without losing the dialogue. XM Radio plays a fair amount of Glass. There was a point in 2004 when I thought Glass' Sym. #2 was not horrible. Now I can't stand it either.

You folks who think people like me don't appreciate your favorite composers because we haven't heard enough of them do us a diservice by assuming that we're too ignorant to have an opinion. Quite the contrary, at least in my case. I don't tell you to listen to more of something you don't like on the faint chance that your palette will become more discriminating. Do me the same courtesy.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

MahlerSnob
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu May 26, 2005 5:31 pm
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by MahlerSnob » Sat Mar 03, 2007 12:15 am

Of course I have. I wouldn't know I can't stand it if I hadn't.
Okay, what recent Adams pieces have you heard? Anything within the last 10 years?
Noise is noise.
Idiotic blanket statements like that don't make you appear to be any less ignorant. I'm not telling you to listen to more of anything. I'm simply questioning your ability to acurately asses a new piece of music when you have proven yourself to be unfamiliar with the composer's work. I find it's a good idea not to comment on things I know nothing about. Perhaps you should consider doing the same.
-Nathan Lofton
Boston, MA

WWBD - What Would Bach Do?

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Post by DavidRoss » Sat Mar 03, 2007 11:04 am

I surely don't regard you as a fool, Corlyss. I really respect and sympathize with your crisp, cut-through-the-BS intellect and your empiricism. And you are right: taste alone is sufficient grounds for someone to dislike most music written since the middle ages (though I think taste is not a given but learned). Your animosity towards 20th Century music in general speaks more about you than about the music, of course (as does mine toward the Romantics), but I am saddened nonetheless to hear someone I respect dismiss possibly the first great American-born composer as a mere noisemaker (though I chuckle at the garbage disposal reference!)
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:55 pm

MahlerSnob wrote:
Of course I have. I wouldn't know I can't stand it if I hadn't.
Okay, what recent Adams pieces have you heard? Anything within the last 10 years?
So I have to prove to you that I have a right to dislike music? You're being ridiculous.

The Chairman Dances
Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Violin Concerto

Noise is noise.
Idiotic blanket statements like that don't make you appear to be any less ignorant.
:lol: That's my problem Nathan: I'm not ignorant enough. I actually can recognize Adams. Listen, you can denounce me all you want but you aren't going to win this argument because it is not based on fact but on personal preferences. So rail away. You just look like you're trying to bully me into adopting your standards in matters of taste, which is essentially a conservative trait that I'm sure you rage against in other contexts.
I find it's a good idea not to comment on things I know nothing about. Perhaps you should consider doing the same.
Yeah, I sort of feel the same way about politics, but that didn't stop you from having your say in the Pub until you couldn't stand to hear contrary voices.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 03, 2007 3:02 pm

DavidRoss wrote:Your animosity towards 20th Century music in general speaks more about you than about the music, of course (as does mine toward the Romantics)
It's a constant surprise to me that people on this board so often make me and my opinions the topic of a thread. Why does Nathan, or you, or Alban Berg care so much about what I think?

Well, be fair, David. It's not all 20th century music, although it does have to prove to me it can carry a tune. I like quite a bit up to the death of Respighi, a lot of movie music composers, Part, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Prokovief, and others I can't think of at the moment.
but I am saddened nonetheless to hear someone I respect
:lol: Thanks, David . . . . I think.
dismiss possibly the first great American-born composer as a mere noisemaker
If I were going to be around in 100 years, I'd bet you that he will be a sterile curiosity, not the "first great American-born composer." Considering the rich tradition of tonality and beautiful music in the western tradition, it would be a real shame if he is.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Post by DavidRoss » Sat Mar 03, 2007 5:59 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:If I were going to be around in 100 years, I'd bet you that he will be a sterile curiosity, not the "first great American-born composer." Considering the rich tradition of tonality and beautiful music in the western tradition, it would be a real shame if he is.
But Adams is steeped in "the rich tradition of tonality and beautiful music." I think most of the academic composers of mid-to-late 20th Century America will be regarded by posterity as "sterile curiosities," however, Adams is not a part of that "tradition," but rather of the long tradition of Western tonal beauty we both admire.

I understand you feel this emperor has no clothes. But aren't you being a bit disingenuous when you jump into a thread about Adams to say he stinks, then question others for forcing their opinions to the contrary on you?

I think I understand, however. It's probably something similar to the appeal for me of jumping into "Wagner is ten times greater than any other composer" threads to suggest he was neither "all that" nor "a bag of chips."
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 03, 2007 6:49 pm

DavidRoss wrote:Adams is not a part of that "tradition," but rather of the long tradition of Western tonal beauty we both admire.
:shock: I don't see it at all. I've heard parts of Nixon Goes To China, even tried to stick it out for the entire thing once. Adams and Glass are exhibit #1 in why people won't pay to listen to modern music, why it has to be on life-support from composer in residence programs, why conductors have to be extremely judicious in programming it. As a 1998 Columbia Univeristy report on the state of classical put it, "It's thought, to the academic and sometimes the critical world, to be a sin to try to write music that the public can actually respond to."
But aren't you being a bit disingenuous when you jump into a thread about Adams to say he stinks, then question others for forcing their opinions to the contrary on you?
No. I was really addressing my comment to Agnes, more as an aside, although I take your point that it was there for all to see. I didn't expect it to get so much attention. Why should people on the one hand care what I think about their pet composers when on the other they so readily dismiss my credentials even to have an opinion? De gustibus and all that. It's a matter of individual taste. They can go on discussing Adams and his virtues to their hearts' content. I shan't interfere except they try to convince me personally that I have no right to my opinion because I don't agree with them, or that people who don't like Adams are patently ignorant, which is simply ridiculous.
I think I understand, however.
:lol: :lol: You wouldn't be a Libra by any chance, would you? :D
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Auntie Lynn
Posts: 1123
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 10:42 pm

Post by Auntie Lynn » Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:06 pm

I went last night. Left in the middle of the second act. Interesting production - dancers, singers, chorus, bells and whistles... It'll prolly win some big prize. As you know, I ALWAYS root for the locals, but this time - a chacun son degustibus, etc....

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2409
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Post by diegobueno » Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:25 pm

Corlyss_D wrote: You folks who think people like me don't appreciate your favorite composers because we haven't heard enough of them do us a diservice by assuming that we're too ignorant to have an opinion. Quite the contrary, at least in my case. I don't tell you to listen to more of something you don't like on the faint chance that your palette will become more discriminating. Do me the same courtesy.
I would never be so rude as to bust in on threads devoted to a certain composer simply to announce that the composer in question stinks. Now you do me the same courtesy.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 8 guests