On September 23, the LA Opera rang in its 2010-11 season with Il Postino (The Postman), a new opera by Daniel Catån. Mark Swed, the Los Angeles Times classical music critic, wrote, “Daniel Catån’s lyrical new opera provides pleasurable contrast from the late spring and early summer heavy Wagner extravaganza.”
Though there is plenty of Wagner, most notably the Metropolitan Opera’s new Robert Lepage spectacle which opened the season, there are new works adding a fresh voice to the repertoire. Here are five operatic world premieres this season.
1. The life of the model turned reality-TV star, Anna Nicole Smith, was easily compared to a soap opera plot. When the eminent British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage began write a real opera based on her life with Covent Garden as its eventual destination, a minor scandal ensued. Sure enough, this season Anna Nicole will get its first performance on Feb. 17. The Royal Opera has posted this disclaimer: “Inevitably adult themes, strong language and sexually explicit content are part of this exciting work.” Hey, that’s never stopped crowds from packing the house before.
2. A few months later and a few blocks away from Covent Garden, the young American new-music darling, Nico Muhly, premieres his new-media opera, Two Boys on June 24 at the English National Opera. Muhly, 29, who embraces the digital age (he has been writing about workshopping the opera on his blog), wrote a parable of the dangers of the Internet Age. It makes its way to the Met, which co-commissioned the piece with the ENO, in 2013-14.
3. Last season, Bruno Mantovani, an IRCAM disciple, began a long-term collaboration Paris Opera to produce new work. The ballet Siddhartha which premiered in the spring was the first fruit of this partnership. Next March comes the second, Akhmatova, an opera based on the life of the Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova, who struggled to create work under Communist rule.
4. One of the best-known Canadian composer-librettist teams, John Estacio and John Murrell (they have collaborated on two previous operas, Frobisher and Filumena) opens the season at Vancouver Opera Oct. 16 with Lillian Alling. It tells the story of a Russian woman who walks from New York City to British Columbia in search of a man named Jozef. A few months later, Murrell will see the first performance of another operatic collaboration: The Inventor, by New York Philharmonic regular Bramwell Tovey. It gets its world premiere in Calgary on Jan. 29.
5. A more humble, but nonetheless anticipated unveiling will come at Indiana University Opera Theater this spring. The Pulitzer Prize winner Bernard Rands collaborated with the highly regarded librettist, J. D. McClatchy, on Vincent, an opera based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh. It is the first in a series of works commissioned to celebrate the centennial of the IU music department, which opened in 1910 and became formally known as the School of Music in 1921. (It has since been branded the Jacobs School of Music.) There won’t be an HD broadcast, but the university will stream the work’s premiere on its Web site in April.