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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Major Companies Announce Two New American Operas

The New York City Opera and the San Francisco Opera have announced that they will be presenting exciting new operas in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Rufus Wainwright

The City Opera, which has struggled to come back from a disastrous, "dark" 2007-08 season, has announced the U.S. premiere of Prima Donna, a new French-language opera by singer-turned-composer Rufus Wainwright. The work will bow in 2012.

Mr. Wainwright is an acclaimed, award-winning singer and the son of folksinger Loudon Wainwright III. His opera tells the story of an aging prima donna who falls in love on the eve of a comeback.

In an ironic twist, Prima Donna was originally intended for the Metropolitan Opera stage. According to a 2008 article in the New York Times, disagreements over language (the Met wanted the work to be in English) and scheduling caused a rift between the company and Mr. Wainwright. Prima Donna received its world premiere in Manchester, England in 2009 and bowed in Toronto earlier this year.

To open its 2011 season, San Francisco Opera offers Heart of a Soldier by composer Christopher Theofanadis. Produced by Francesca Zambello, this new work examines the horrors of war through the experiences of a real-life soldier. Mr. Theofanadis has written the work for a traditional orchestra, incorporating and traditional Islamic music and rock elements like electric guitar.

Mr. Theofanadis' opera was inspired by James B. Stewart's book of the same title. chronicling the story of Morgan Stanley security head Rick Rescoria, and his effort to evacuate the south tower of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Rescoria, a Vietnam veteran, helped 2,700 Morgan Stanley employees to safety. He used unorthodox evacuation techniques, included calming the crowd by singing to them through his megaphone.

He was last seen going into Tower 2 to rescue stragglers, but was killed when the tower collapsed. His remains were not recovered. Thomas Hampson is scheduled to sing the principal role, and Patrick Summers will conduct the premiere. Heart of a Soldier is scheduled to premiere on Sept. 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

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