Troyens

Troyens

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Rumor & Gossip

Reports in various papers indicate that the commission to be announced shortly by Santa Fe Opera for 2017 is about Steve Jobs, composed by Mason Bates. Color me dubious on both subject and choice of composer. I have not seen anything yet about the librettist. Maybe it's Walter Isaacson.

13 comments:

CruzSF said...

Ha! Isaacson would be a coup. A commission on that subject would be a good candidate to be co-produced by our own SFO. No comment on whether this is a good idea.

Lisa Hirsch said...

It's Mark Campbell, one of the librettists of As One, a libretto with gigantic problems.

CruzSF said...

I just saw the official announcement from SFeO. Mark Campbell also wrote the libretto for Silent Night, which surely can be placed in his Plus column.

Has Bates written anything for voice? I know only his instrumental works.

Lisa Hirsch said...

There's a piece with chorus. I heard it at Davies and don't remember the name or whether it was SFO or CSO performing it. :)

Joshua Kosman said...

You're thinking of Mass Transmission, which the SF Symphony and Chorus did in 2012, and which is easily the weakest piece I've ever heard from Bates — so bad as to be, in my view, a complete outlier. By contrast, Sirens, a 2009 commission for Chanticleer, is a really brilliant, beautiful piece.

Neither of those is all that much of a tell about his opera-writing chops, of course. But I would never bet against him, he's too good.

I agree with you completely about the As One libretto, which does make Campbell seem a worrisome choice. The difference between us is that I've written my review. When you've done the same, then you can freely bitch with the rest of us ;-)

Lisa Hirsch said...

Haha - it is maybe 1/3 written. Maybe on the shuttle home tonight.

Regarding Bates, I liked Mass Transmission a lot more than you did and otherwise like him less than you do.

Lisa Hirsch said...

(And that's not the only incomplete review: Missa Solemnis, Ariadne, Brahms Requiem, and more blathering about both Troyens and things Luisotti and Gockley said, and should not have, about that awful 12-tone music.)

CruzSF said...

I've liked a couple of Bates' pieces, which I've heard at SFS and on a recording from CSO. I sense I like him less than Mr. Kosman (above). I'll reserve judgment until I can hear the new opera, and in the meantime will see if his other vocal works are recorded. In the Bay Area, I'll never run out of chances to hear his works live, I'm sure.

Michael said...

I'm thrilled by this announcement! Bates's orchestral music is so narrative and lyrical, moving to opera seems a really natural progression. It seems a perfect match of composer and subject matter. Santa Fe Opera has just had a great success with the first opera from Jennifer Higdon, another composer who is much better known for orchestral music. So they have some experience in helping composers write for opera.

Michael said...

And for the record, Mass Transmission is for chorus, organ, and electronica, no orchestra. I was fortunate enough to sing with the chorus in the premiere and wrote a love letter to the piece in my blog. My wife in the audience was more on Mr. Kosman's side on this one.

CruzSF said...

The brouhaha over Santa Fe Opera's announcement has me thinking of a tangent from your earlier post about which operas we'd like to see on SFO's schedule: on which topics/books/people would you like to see an opera commissioned? I think one based on the life -- or a part of the life -- of Marie Curie could be interesting. Ada Lovelace is another good subject.

John Marcher said...

The announcement of an opera about Steve Jobs really put me off - enough with this guy already. Then I started wondering who the composer was and Bates came to mind, so I did some digging and viola! I'd rather see just about anyone else chosen as the subject, but I think the pairing is a natural fit and if anyone can do it justice (and also make it musically interesting) it's probably Bates. And add me to the list who thinks Mass Transmission is his only dud so far, and the only reason I would see an opera about Jobs would be because of Bates (or maybe Nicole Lizee).

So here's an idea for a new post/list ala "fantasy season": people (real or fictional) who should be the subject of an opera. My list would (at least tonight) include: Rabbit Angstrom, Mickey Sabbath, Lily Bart, Brian Epstein, Valerie Plame, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Jodi Arias, Orson Welles, Alexander Hamilton, & Lee Miller/Man Ray.

Lisa Hirsch said...

We've already got a Hamilton opera, unless you want to try to make a meaningful distinction between what we call "musicals" and what we call "opera." ;-)

Putting it bluntly, the quality of the libretto and music have more to do with the success of an opera than the subject matter. Compare, for example, Falstaff, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Sir John in Love. (I have to admit to only having seen the Verdi on stage, but the RVW sounds like weak stuff on record.)