Floyd, Bolcom New Operas Reviewed

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Floyd, Bolcom New Operas Reviewed

Post by lennygoran » Sat Feb 25, 2017 7:58 am

Didn't know about these. Regards, Len

Review: At 90, Carlisle Floyd Scores a Fresh Opera Hit


New operas by two eminent American composers crossed paths in New York this week.

On Tuesday at Merkin Concert Hall, the New York Festival of Song gave the premiere of a suite of mordant, jazzy songs from William Bolcom’s new opera “Dinner at Eight,” which will have its premiere at Minnesota Opera next month. Mark Campbell’s libretto is based on the 1932 play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, adapted into a classic 1933 George Cukor film.

And on Thursday at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, the Little Opera Theater of New York presented the New York premiere of “Prince of Players,” the latest opera by the revered Carlisle Floyd, which had its premiere last spring by the Houston Grand Opera, a few months before Mr. Floyd’s 90th birthday. It’s miraculous that a composer whose reputation dates to his 1955 “Susannah,” one of the most performed American operas, is still working with assurance and skill.

Mr. Floyd’s approach to opera may be solidly traditional, complete with set-piece arias and stand-and-deliver ensembles. And his score, as with all his music, draws from conventional, tonal musical idioms. Still, “Prince of Players” tells its story vividly and compactly, while fleshing out characters who win your sympathy. To say an opera is well-made may seem faint praise. But pulling that off is not so easy, as many composers with more distinctive and complex musical voices have discovered.

“Prince of Players” was adapted by Mr. Floyd (who, as usual, wrote his own libretto) from a Jeffrey Hatcher play (and subsequent 2004 film) about Edward Kynaston, one of the last actors in Restoration England to have a career playing female roles, especially Shakespeare’s. The opera centers on Kynaston’s crisis in 1661, when Charles II declares that all female roles on London stages must be played by women. The attractive Kynaston, who has perfected a technique of affected, highly stylized “female” gestures and poses, is unable to adjust.

The general criticism of Mr. Floyd’s work is that his music lacks originality and depth. It’s true that the lucid, accessible score of “Prince of Players” does not have many secrets to explore. Still, Mr. Floyd has a way of drawing on a style that suits the dramatic moment. And there are surprisingly contemporary touches: a pointillist burst in the orchestra to suggest panic among the players; a purposefully “wrong note” brass fanfare to slyly introduce the king and his mistress.

Mr. Floyd knows everything about writing for the voice. Lines segue subtly from declamatory stretches, where words dominate, to lyrical passages in which emotions take over. For this simple production, with stylish period costumes, directed by Philip Shneidman, the lead roles are double-cast. The fine singers on Thursday included the baritone Michael Kelly, who brought a light lyric voice and youthful charisma to Kynaston; and the feisty soprano Maeve Höglund as Margaret Hughes, his dresser, who yearns to act and becomes a star after the king’s edict.

The score saves the best for last when Kynaston, now daring to play Othello, and Margaret, as Desdemona, shock the audience with the raw realism of their acting, qualities captured in Mr. Floyd’s pungent, fitful music. Richard Cordova conducted the orchestra ably. And I will not soon forget Mr. Floyd receiving the audience’s ovation.

Across town, Mr. Bolcom has been acclaimed for music that boldly draws on diverse styles, including early 20th-century American song, cabaret and all manner of contemporary classical techniques. From this suite, performed by five impressive young singers accompanied on two pianos by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, “Dinner at Eight” seems much closer to a musical-theater work than his previous three grand-sized operas.

The piece tells the story of Millicent, a Manhattan socialite during the Depression, who is trying to plan the ideal dinner party for a group of guests entangled in a matrix of business and romantic intrigues. The tale has a dark side, captured with a glint of cynicism in Mr. Campbell’s lyrics. And all comes to a head during the final song, “The Party Goes On,” a skittish, dizzying ensemble for all five voices.

Prince of Players
Through Sunday at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College; lotny.org.

Dinner at Eight
Opens on March 11 at Minnesota Opera; mnopera.org.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/arts ... front&_r=0

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Re: Floyd, Bolcom New Operas Reviewed

Post by diegobueno » Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:08 pm

I have to admire Carlisle Floyd's persistence in continuing to compose operas up into his 90s. I have seen his Susannah and Of Mice and Men staged. Glimmerglass had an excellent production of the latter about 15 years ago, which made a very powerful impression. Like Britten, Floyd is stingy with his tunes, only introducing them when there's a dramatic point to be made. In this opera it's a song that George sings to Lenny about the wonderful farm they're going to have someday. At the end George has Lenny sing it to distract him from the fact that George is about to shoot him (to save him from the worse fate he'll meet at the hands of the coming posse). The moment gains power from the tune's presence, and from the absence of big tunes elsewhere in the opera. All the lyrical energy has been channeled into that one dream of a future utopia which is about to be blown to smithereens.
Black lives matter.

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Re: Floyd, Bolcom New Operas Reviewed

Post by lennygoran » Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:22 pm

diegobueno wrote:
Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:08 pm
I have to admire Carlisle Floyd's persistence in continuing to compose operas up into his 90s. I have seen his Susannah and Of Mice and Men staged.
We saw those operas too-enjoyed them both-especially Susannah-the Susannah was at the Met with Fleming and Ramey-the Mice and Men was at the old NYCO. Regards, Len

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Re: Floyd, Bolcom New Operas Reviewed

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 11, 2017 1:07 pm

Yes, Fleming and Ramey were outstanding at the MET in that production of Susannah!

Then, there's Willie Stark, which has thankfully been put on DVD by LSU:


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Re: Floyd, Bolcom New Operas Reviewed

Post by jserraglio » Sat Mar 11, 2017 1:44 pm

I have heard Floyd's work dissed by the snobbish but I enjoyed Susannah when I first saw it in a student production. I have a private DVD of a 2014 SF Opera telecast starring Patricia Racette which is excellent.

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Re: Floyd, Bolcom New Operas Reviewed

Post by lennygoran » Sat Mar 11, 2017 7:55 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Mar 11, 2017 1:44 pm
Patricia Racette which is excellent.
My DVD has her too-wonderful! Regards, Len

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