Monday, December 12, 2016

Nominees and the Folly of It All

A friend asked me last year about the five greatest operas written in the last 50 years. Well, in some sense it's folly to even try; on the other hand, it's an entertaining questions to ask.

Here's the big problem with this enterprise, though: Thierry Vagne's attempt at a comprehensive list of all postwar operas is...enormous.

I asked on my blog, I asked on Twitter (more than once), and a fair number of people played. I didn't ask anyone to give me their criteria for "greatest," and that was a mistake, because in some of these cases, I'd really like to know. I mean, for my taste, Dead Man Walking got a shocking number of nominations, and I have never thought it very good, suffering from ostinatoitis and a general lack of memorable music.

Anyway, here is the list of nominees from 2015, with apologies for taking a year to post it:
  • Corigliano, Ghosts of Versailles
  • Heggie 
    • Dead Man Walking
    • Moby-Dick
  • Ligeti, Le Grand Macabre
  • Glass, Satyagraha
  • Adams, Nixon in China
  • Benjamin, Written on Skin
  • Catan, Florencia en el Amazonas 
  • Puts, Silent Night 
  • Rautavaara, Rasputin
  • Escaich, Claude
  • Saariaho, L'Amour de Loin
  • Dean, Bliss
  • Chin, Alice in Wonderland
  • Ades
    • The Tempest
    • Powder Her Face
  • Messiaen, St. Francois
  • Golijov, Aindanamar
  • Adams, Nixon in China
  • Birtwistle 
    • Gawain
    • Mask of Orpheus
  • Glass, Einstein on the Beach
  • Berg, Three-Act Lulu (YES I KNOW THIS IS CHEATING)
  • Stockhausen, Mitwoch
  • Henze, The Bassarids
  • Nono, Al gran sole carico d'amore
  • Britten
    • The Burning Fiery Furnace
    • The Prodigal Son
    • Death in Venice
I'm fascinated that three of the four composers more than one of whose operas was nominated are English. My own favorites of Britten's operas, The Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Peter Grimes, don't make the 50 year cut.

My candidates, which were echoed by many others, were St. Francois, Nixon in China, Einstein on the Beach, Gawain, and Le Grand Macabre. Note that I limited my nominees to those operas I've actually seen.


Henry Holland said...

Benjamin: Written on Skin
Saariaho: L'Amour de Loin
Messiaen: St. Francois
Birtwistle: Mask of Orpheus
Britten: Death in Venice

Lisa Hirsch said...

You made some of those nominations, though perhaps you have forgotten. :-)

Michael Good said...

There are 4 composers with multiple operas nominated and Jake Heggie's not English. I sure would love to see Bliss sometime.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Whoops - right you are. Missed that because in the larger scheme of things I consider him...well...forgettable. Will fix.