4 reasons to get excited about opera in 2018

4 reasons to get excited about opera in 2018

Jenna Simeonov
Readers, what are you looking forward to in your operatic lives this year? Every now and then it’s nice to take stock of the exciting things on the horizon, to keep us interested and invested in the art form we all love. We’ve got four things for opera fans to get properly pumped about in 2018:

Streamable productions to pique your curiosity

The catalogue of streamable productions available via OperaVision is one of the internet’s great gifts to opera lovers. The collection is from mostly European houses, a great complement to anyone who has a subscription to the Metropolian Opera’s On Demand service.

You can catch delicious gems like Peter Mumford’s Ring Cycle with Opera North, Calixto Bieito’s new Tosca from Norway, and Barrie Kosky’s Pelléas et Mélisande in Berlin. There are also some lesser-known picks, like Feliks Nowowiejski 1924 opera Legenda Bałtyku in Robert Bondara’s production at the Poznań Opera House, and Denisov’s L’écume des jours, the 1986 adaptation of the novel by Boris Vian, directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito for Oper Stuttgart.

The catalogue changes regularly, so check out what’s up now before it’s replaced (likely by something else cool).

Rufus Wainwright’s new opera

Following his debut opera, Prima Donna (2009), Rufus Wainright is teaming up with actor and playwright Daniel MacIvor for Hadrian, set to premiere in 2018 at the Canadian Opera Company. Prima Donna’s first ventures onstage - at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Sadlers Wells Theatre - were received well by Wainwright’s fans, and garnered mixed-bag reactions from the more hardcore opera folk.

Wainwright’s new opera is based on the life of the Roman emperor Hadrian (76-138 AD) and his relationship with Antinous, “essentially the male equivalent to Helen of Troy”.

Hadrian is a piece that piques curiosity. The story is based on a lesser-known corner of Roman history; it’s a work that could be described, for better or for worse, as a “gay opera”; and it’s written by Rufus Wainwright, an undeniable lover of opera who has a curious fascination with the “fancy” side of the art form.

Whether you’re in it for the Roman history or the Rufus, Hadrian is something to pay attention to.

Money for new opera

OPERA America has awarded $225,000 to 11 companies for the development of new operas: American Opera Projects, Opera Parallèle, Beth Morrison Projects, Boston Lyric Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Long Beach Opera, The Metropolitan Opera, Minnesota Opera, Opera Columbus, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

That averages out to just over $20,000 per company; that may not seem like a lot for an expensive art form like opera, but it’s an exciting move for Opera AMERICA to spread out its funding and support new works in high quantities. It’s not likely that every new work developed with this money will be a keeper. But quantity begets quality; it’s how we were left with the Nozze di Figaros, the Traviatas, and the Bohèmes.

Speaking of which:

Contemporary operas getting lots of stage time

George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s Written On Skin goes up next month at Opera Philadelphia, in a new production by William Kerley and conducted by Corrado Rovaris. It may not sound like big news, but it’s an exciting checkpoint for the 2012 opera, which aside from in-concert performances worldwide, has been conducted by the composer, sung by its original cast led by Barbara Hannigan and Christopher Purves, and staged in Katie Mitchell’s production for the Royal Opera House. This new production in Philadelphia features a new cast and a new creative team, the best indicator that a new opera has true legs of its own.

The same thing is happening with As One, the chamber opera by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Cambell and Kimberly Reed. The work premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014, and has since gone up at San Diego Opera, Long Beach Opera, Chicago Fringe Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera. The opera’s transgender protagonist makes it a timely topic, and its compact size makes As One a portable and flexible production for companies of varying aesthetics.

These works join the ranks of Silent Night and Dead Man Walking, contemporary works that stand alone outside their premiere runs. We’re building our 21st-century repertoire every day, and it’s an exciting thing to watch as new operas prove their staying power.

Readers, what has you excited about opera in 2018? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch at [email protected].

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