Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The worst opera ever?

My colleague at the Register, Matt Leone, and his wife, are big opera buffs and get out to see more of them than I do. Monday morning he came in and said he had seen a terrible opera, simply boring and of very little interest, especially in the music, at the LA Opera on Sunday. It turned out the be "The Fly," music by Howard Shore ("Lord of the Rings," "Silence of the Lambs," "Eastern Promises") based on the 1986 David Cronenberg film, libretto by playwtight David Henry Hwang.

Later the Register's music critic Timothy Mangan (who's quite perceptive and a musician in his own right; we played together in a band for a company event) described it as the worst opera he had ever seen (only later slightly qualifying his comment. He pointed out the "Opera is hard work" and just because you're an accomplished composer doesn't mean you know how to do it.

Anthony Tommasini, the New York Times critic, was
only slightly less dismissive, calling it "a ponderous and enervating opera, and the problem is Mr. Shore's music." The AP also panned it.

If all this is true, it's too bad. I have really liked Howard Shore's film music (and Tommasini said there were moments, even though overall it was a failure) but opera is a discipline all its own. As Tim said, if you want to start you write one act for an opera workshop and listen to feedback from singers and other musicians. Of course, some critics panned Beethoven when he was alive, so maybe these judgments are harsh. I trust Matt's taste, however. Looks like an interesting try -- and one hopes it doesn't discourage other composers -- but a failure. Too bad.


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