Wednesday, January 8, 2014

January 8

Lads in plaid:


Under clothed, over accessorized:

Brokeback Mountain opera
To première in Madrid January 28

Annie Proulx, the author of the short story “Brokeback Mountain,” wrote the libretto that was set to music by Pulitzer Prize winning American serialist composer Charles Wuorinen (photo at right). Wuorinen is a New York City based gay composer who is married to his manager, Howard Stokar.

The opera, completed in 2012, was originally commissioned by the New York City Opera and Gerard Mortier, but the project was postponed when General Manager Mortier resigned. When he became head of the Teatro Real (Madrid, Spain), Mortier decided to take up the work again and present it there.  

Canadian bass/baritone Daniel Okulitch has the role of Ennis del Mar, and American tenor Tom Randle is cast as Jack Twist. At the Teatro Real (Madrid), January 28-February 11.

Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain" was originally published in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997, and was made into an Academy Award winning film in 2005 with Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack and Heath Ledger as Ennis in the lead roles. The story, set in Wyoming, reveals a complex romantic/sexual relationship between two cowboys, in which homophobia stands in the way of their being able to be partners. Both the story and the film have become gay classics.

In an interview about "Brokeback Mountain," Proulx stated that Ennis Del Mar was a confused ranch kid who finds himself in a personal sexual situation he did not foresee, nor can understand. She said both men were "beguiled by the cowboy myth," and "Ennis tries to be one but never gets beyond ranch hand work." Ennis is reluctant to show affection towards Jack, and when Jack brings up suggestions about their living together, Ennis always declines, sometimes in a harsh way. Both men marry, but their heterosexual relationships falter. The men meet for infrequent fishing trips, which rekindle their sexual desires.

Baritone Daniel Okulitch fully nude onstage in The Fly:

Tattooed tenor Tom Randle in Wozzeck:

To your blogger's way of thinking, choosing serialist composer Charles Wuorinen to write the score for this opera is appropriate, because the short story was powerfully emotional without being overly romanticized in style. I think that a 19th-century tonal style would not do this story justice.

Wuorinen's catalog of more than 260 compositions emphasizes chamber music and solo instrumental and vocal works, but his most recent commissions tend toward large scale symphonic, operatic and choral compositions.

At age 16 Wuorinen was awarded the New York Philharmonic's Young Composer’s Award, and early in his career he was active as a singer, pianist and organist. In 1962 Wuorinen and fellow composer-performer Harvey Sollberger formed The Group for Contemporary Music, an ensemble that raised the standard of new music performance in New York City. He has taught at Columbia University and the Manhattan School of Music.

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