Coming Events: Familiar Themes, Surprising Twists

By CVNA Editors

DATE BOOK – Singers at U.S. and European festivals this summer will be participating in new works that are cleverly crafted from a wide array of sources, including ancient lore and current headlines. Here are some highlights:

A dark fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm is the subject of Poul Ruders’ new opera ‘The Thirteenth Child,’ coming to Santa Fe this summer with a simultaneous release on Bridge Records.  (Concept art, Santa Fe opera)

Santa Fe: This Time It’s The Princess To The Rescue

July 27, 31; Aug. 9, 14, 21, 21: Full details

A little-known story by the Brothers Grimm, Die zwölf Brüder (The Twelve Brothers), has been adapted as a fairy-tale opera, The Thirteeenth Child, to debut at the Santa Fe Opera this summer, on the heels of a Bridge Records premiere recording that became available in late June. The Thirteenth Child begins as a king’s evil cousin convinces him that all his sons are planning to overthrow him, so the king banishes the boys and instructs his pregnant queen to produce a female heir for a change. A girl is indeed born. At eighteen she learns the truth and ventures into an enchanted forest, trip-mined with evil spells, to seek out her brothers and put things right. Danish composer Poul Ruders collaborated with Becky and David Starobin, co-founders of the Bridge label, who served as librettists for the project.     

San Francisco: Soprano Takes A Turn As The Devil

July 27, 31; Aug. 9, 14, 21, 21: Full details

Tasked to write a full opera for the young voices in San Francisco Opera’s Merola training program, composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer turned to If I Were You, based a Faustian story from 1947 by Julian Green. “It was introduced to me fifteen years ago,” said Heggie by telephone. “The writer was an American who lived in France and wrote in French. He was popular during the era of Sartre and Cocteau. There was a very bad translation that I read, but the shape-shifting concept fascinated me. It’s about a person who sells his soul so that he can move from person to person to be closer to this woman he loves. The devil’s a soprano, there’s Gothic horror, and it’s very funny in places.”

Celebrating Ruth Bader Ginsberg, ‘ When There Are Nine,’ by Kristin Kuster and Megan Levad, will premiere. (Cabrillo Festival concept art)

Santa Cruz: Cabrillo Fest Salutes Ruth Bader Ginsburg

July 28-Aug. 11: Full details

California’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is always a feast for ears attuned to the latest, and this year’s lineup, conceived by music director and conductor Cristian Macelaru, is typically ambitious. Billed as a women-centric season, it offers three world premieres, two U.S. premieres and eight West Coast premieres by fourteen composers, all but two in residence. The centerpiece is the world premiere of Kristin Kuster’s When There Are Nine, to a libretto by Megan Levad, which celebrates U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Its title refers one of her most famous answers about when there will be enough women on the highest court. Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is to star with the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth (Aug. 2). The other world premieres are É Gol, by Brazilian-American composer Clarice Assad, who wrote that  her piece, which requires audience participation, was inspired by the Brazilian soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva (Aug. 4), and Psalms Without Words by Preven Antonsen, a San Francisco-based former student of John Adams (Aug. 10).

‘Le Mille endormis’ by Adam Maor will debut at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence (© Patrick Berger)

Aix-En-Provence: When Sleeping Prisoners Become The Nightmare

July 6, 8, 10, 12, 14: Full details

Le Mille endormis (The Sleeping Thousand), a world-premiere opera set in Israel by composer Adam Maor and librettist Yonatan Levy, looks at what happens when a thousand prisoners are forced into a sleep state as a means of distracting international attention from their hunger strike. A fanciful parable, this nightmarish scenario causes an even greater problem and requires an emissary to be sent into the world of dreams. The work, to be sung in Hebrew with French and English surtitles, is a co-commission with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg and a co-production with many European presenters. The festival has an “altered-states” focus with the reprises of two other operas, both chamber works: Wolfgang Rihm’s 1979 Jakob Lenz and Michel van der Aa’s 2012 Blank Out.

‘Blue,’ which premieres at The Glimmerglass Festival, will be in D.C. and Chicago next season. (The Kama Photography)

Glimmerglass: A Black Cop Faces The Future For His Newborn Son

July 14, 26, 29; Aug. 2, 6, 10, 17, 22.: Full details

The first look at Blue, a new opera by composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson, will take place at The Glimmerglass Festival. It presents the plight of an African-American couple in Harlem, where the father is a cop.  The parents must consider how to help their firstborn child prepare for the world he will live in. Tazewell, who is also the director, wrote that the plot is set in fraught times, lit by “lightning and divisiveness. Love, family, friends, and the church are there when we need them.” The production is a co-commisison with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Washington National Opera, which will present the work in 2020. Also prominent in the Glimmerglass season is John Corigliano’s 1991 The Ghosts of Versailles, in a new co-production with the Château de Versailles Spectacles; its pointedly subversive libretto by William M. Hoffman took as its starting point La Mère coupable (The Guilty Mother) by Beaumarchais.