Horror Opera Mazzoli

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lennygoran
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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
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Horror Opera Mazzoli

Post by lennygoran » Tue May 15, 2018 7:54 am

We saw her Breaking the Waves and I enjoyed it-have never been to the Miller Theater. Regards, Len

A New ‘Horror Opera’ Opens Miller Theater’s Next Season


By Michael Cooper
May 14, 2018

With her dark, disturbing “Breaking the Waves,” Missy Mazzoli established herself as an opera composer to watch. Now New Yorkers will get a chance to hear her latest work, “Proving Up,” which will open the 30th-anniversary season of the Miller Theater at Columbia University.

“Proving Up” is, like “Breaking the Waves,” based on a nightmarish tale, this one a short story by Karen Russell about homesteaders in Nebraska after the Civil War struggling with the American dream. Another collaboration with the librettist Royce Vavrek, the new work was described as ushering in a new genre of “horror opera” by The Washington Post.


Miller Theater, which for three decades has brought a downtown sensibility uptown, will also continue its essential Composer Portraits series next season, focusing on a new generation of artists. Concerts will be devoted to Kate Soper, with a performance of her “Ipsa Dixit”; the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun; the composer and pianist Wang Lu; John Zorn, the veteran impresario of the downtown scene; Tyshawn Sorey, who won a 2017 MacArthur “genius” grant; and David T. Little, with a pairing of his “Haunt of Last Nightfall,” exploring the role of the United States in the 1981 massacre in El Mozote in El Salvador, and “Agency,” a work for string quartet and electronics.

The harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani will give two recitals, pairing selections from Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” with contemporary works, including a commission by George Lewis. The Vijay Iyer Sextet will be among the Miller’s jazz offerings. And its early music series will feature performance by the Tallis Scholars, Stile Antico, the Orlando Consort, New York Polyphony and Cappella Pratensis, a Dutch ensemble.

Over time the Miller has emerged not only as a presenter of new music, but also a commissioner of it — including, next season, works by Mr. Sorey, Mr. Lewis, Nico Muhly and more. But its decision to become a co-commissioner of “Proving Up,” along with Washington National Opera and Opera Omaha, suggests a new level of ambition. The theater and its executive director, Melissa Smey, described the production as the first fruits of an initiative to help create chamber operas.



https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/14/arts ... collection

lennygoran
Posts: 14126
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Re: Horror Opera Mazzoli

Post by lennygoran » Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:41 am

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I'm sorry we'll have to miss this-we'll be away-enjoyed her “Breaking the Waves” Regards, Len

After Two Hit Operas, a Composer Takes on the Bleak Prairie

By Zachary Woolfe

Sept. 7, 2018

With the New York premiere of “Proving Up,” at the Miller Theater on Sept. 26 and 28, the composer Missy Mazzoli has that contemporary musical miracle: a hotly anticipated third opera, a voice intriguing enough to seek out again and again.

“Song From the Uproar” (2012) showed she could mingle acoustic instruments and darkly propulsive electric guitar while guiding a singer through duskily lyrical intensity. “Breaking the Waves” (2016), based on the bleak Lars von Trier film about a devout young woman whose paralyzed husband orders her to have sex with other men, was success on a grander scale, a lucid yet roiling sea of emotional extremity.

“It was a massive step forward,” David B. Devan, the general director of Opera Philadelphia, which commissioned “Breaking the Waves,” said. “To have a young composer write in such a confident manner — and how she was setting the voice, creating these two sort of vocal worlds for the lead character — was light years ahead of her thinking about vocal production in ‘Song From the Uproar.’ ”


It whetted the appetite for more from Ms. Mazzoli, 37. (And she’s just getting started on the world’s major stages, including a recent appointment as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s composer in residence and a coming, gender-bent Orpheus dance for National Ballet of Canada.) But the origins of “Proving Up” — which at the Miller will feature the International Contemporary Ensemble conducted by Christopher Rountree — actually date from before “Breaking the Waves.”

“I had the idea in 2008 or 2009, during the recession, to write an opera about the American dream,” she said on a blazingly hot recent afternoon, in her studio at the air-conditioned end of her railroad apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. “It was just in the back of my mind.”

When she was given the opportunity to revisit the theme, Ms. Mazzoli and her frequent librettist, Royce Vavrek, chose a short story by the “Swamplandia!” author Karen Russell about a family in 1860s Nebraska struggling to make a claim on a homestead on the drought-plagued prairie. The resulting piece, which had its premiere at Washington National Opera in January, is simultaneously luminous — as glassy as the window that’s a central plot device — and ominous.

Ms. Mazzoli spoke about “Proving Up” in a conversation that also touched on her path to becoming an opera composer. Here are edited excerpts.

What did the success of “Breaking the Waves” mean for you?

It meant “I can do this; I proved myself; I don’t need to make excuses for why I want to do this.” My only goal was that people understand it. I didn’t really care that people liked it. I just wanted to be understood, and I wanted to be seen as an opera composer.

Did it make for high expectations for “Proving Up”?

I started writing “Proving Up” the week after “Breaking the Waves” premiered. And there are certain things I set up so it would have to be different. It’s one act — 75 minutes — instead of two hours and 15 minutes with “Breaking the Waves.”

There’s a harpsichord; there are eight guitars in the percussion section, tuned to open tuning. It’s a jangly quality, and it’s a dry quality; the opera takes place in a drought landscape in the American Midwest. A guitar is also something that these characters could possibly have brought with them in a covered wagon.

Has opera been a natural fit for you?

There are composers I really admire, like Anna Thorvaldsdottir and John Luther Adams, who are really inspired by nature, or Ashley Fure, who just wrote what looks to be an incredible opera about objects and climate change. I take a slightly different direction, in that all my work is inspired by human beings. It’s all about people, and very specific, impossible situations that people find themselves in, and the intricate ways human beings interact. Since I was a little kid, I was interested in figuring out other people and why they did the things they did.

Even when I was doing purely instrumental work, I always thought of the melodies and the form as a kind of interplay between characters. Different forces in the piece, maybe chords, were working with each other or against each other.

Like anthropomorphized?

Totally. And just emotionalized. I was putting human dramas onto this music all the time, even if I was the only one who ever knew it.


Were there certain dramas you found were repeating themselves?

A common thing was just, like, a voice that was suppressed — a theme or a chord or a harmony or a note that was struggling to get out from underneath or between something else. That’s all opera is: someone struggling to be heard in the face of a menacing bass. But even to write for a singer was something I didn’t do for a long time, really until late in college. All the music I did up until then was abstract.
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Ms. Mazzoli said the success of her last opera, “Breaking the Waves,” meant “I can do this; I proved myself; I don’t need to make excuses for why I want to do this.”CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

How did you get started as a composer?

I’m from Lansdale, Pa., a small town an hour north of Philadelphia. When I was growing up it was really rural; I felt very isolated. We always had a piano in the house, and I would make up songs, and make up pieces, from the time I was 5. I took piano lessons from when I was 7, and I knew instantly that I wanted a life in music, a life that was creative. It was a door to this world that seemed infinite, that is infinite: the repertory, and learning about who the composers were as people. It was never just about music.

But I always just felt like an impostor, which is not an uncommon way to feel in classical music. I didn’t come from a musical family; I was not born into a world of culture at all. It was shock after shock — like, doing the Tanglewood high school program, I was just like: “What am I doing here? They’re going to find out I’m a total fraud and kick me out.” It was all about getting over that feeling and realizing that this music belongs to everybody, and everybody has their own way in. And I had something to say that was totally different from everyone else.

Are there through lines between what you did back then and now?

I think I’ve always had a similar relationship to tonality. My music isn’t across-the-board tonal, and it’s not across-the-board dissonant. I’m always trying to find creative ways of incorporating dissonance into my work, but also using the familiarity or nostalgia of tonality to achieve certain effects.

How did “Song From the Uproar” come about?

People respond to big things. And I think I was just ready as an artist to do something big and immersive. I wanted to immerse the audience in a world instead of having them observe something as part of an evening. I wanted to be the evening.

And [the writer and explorer] Isabelle Eberhardt’s story is big. So it wasn’t going to do to just write a song cycle. And through my work on that, I really fell in love with the idea of writing an opera. And I felt I could do it. I loved writing for the voice, and the singers seemed to like it; it was a huge boost of confidence.

David Devan saw “Song From the Uproar” and said I should apply to this residency at Opera Philadelphia, and I got it. And halfway through my first year, I realized I wanted to be writing a massive opera. You see a pattern here: I just keep wanting to raise the stakes. So we pitched them “Breaking the Waves,” which Royce had suggested to me years before, and I had said, “Absolutely not.”

Why?

I love the film, and I thought: Why would we mess with something so great? But it was an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. I felt that opera could add a lot to that story and tell it differently. You can have a sense of the subtext, what’s going on in people’s minds.

Did you know how strong it was as you worked on it?

It’s always ups and downs. The further I go into a project, the less perspective I have. I remember sitting at the dress rehearsal and turning to everyone like a crazy person and saying: “Is it good? Is it good? Is it good?” And it’s the thing I’m probably the most proud of in my life. But at the time, it’s really hard to know how it’s coming off to people who haven’t been in this world every day for three years.

What were you trying to play with in “Proving Up”?

It’s a lot about how far I could push things in a strange, surreal direction. There are these two sisters who are dead but sing, and we really played around with whether the other characters could see them, whether their brother could see them. And I have to credit James Darrah, our director, who is dark like me and is willing to go there, to expose that darker side of human experience.

Is that opera’s job, to gently expose that side?

Yeah, or not so gently [laughs]. Those are the most interesting things to me, as an artist. A friend said to me, “You’re a sex and death artist,” and it was the biggest compliment. I do think that opera provides a tremendous opportunity to shine a light on aspects of the human experience that we don’t always think about. Not in a gentle way, but in a new way, an interesting way.
Correction: September 7, 2018

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the company that gave the premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s opera “Proving Up.” It was Washington National Opera, in January, not Opera Omaha, which gave the second performances in April.



https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/07/arts ... opera.html

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