If it's good, turn it into a symphony

San Francisco Opera premiered a new opera from John Adams in 2005, "Doctor Atomic", an opera about the Atomic bomb physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his Manhattan Project team in the New Mexico desert. This opera, unlike anything ever done (according to John Adams), has received numerous critical acclaim and helped earn Mr Adams Operas highest award. The haunting music of the opera is so good, Adams has turned it into a symphony which premiered at the Cabrillo Festival on Saturday.

Howard Shore won 2 Academy Awards for his score for the "Lord of the Rings" films and the result? You guessed it, a symphony. Shore also recently premiered a new opera "The Fly" in Paris and wrote a piece to commemorate Macy's 150th Anniversary.

This concept of turning previously popular material into a compact symphonic version (although Shores "Lord of the Rings" symphony is still 2 hours) is hardly new. John Williams did it with his score from "Star Wars." Shostakovich had his 8th string quartet turned into a symphony by Rudolf Barshai, a famous interpreter of Shostakovich's music. Robert Dearling in his book "The Music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the Symphonies" (p75) suggests Mozart did the same with the opening Andante Grazioso of his opera Ascanio in Alba (K111) by adding a presto Finale. But the idea that it is still happening is exciting?

Why? This conversion of music from film and/or opera into a symphony shows:

1 - a desire to hear the music of these composers in a format other than the original music intended; the music earning a life of its own.

2 - a desire for symphonic works - symphonies to be exact. As one who wants to write more of this genre, this is great news!

I wouldn't be surprised if the next step was to find pop artists taking their "songs" and turning them into longer symphonic pieces. But then Lee Johnson has already done that with his "Dead Symphony No 6" incorporating tunes from the Grateful Dead (performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on August 1st).

Here is a bit from "Doctor Atomic"


Mission 101 said…
Again the A-bomb...it's all about provoking me right....my ego demands you reply 'Yes'


(Cant' convey a really BIG smiley face in plain text, but that's what this is)

El Ranter
Chip said…
Yes, my dear Irish Ranting Friend, I am only trying to goad you into capitulation.
El Ranter said…
Aha! I knew it, I KNEW IT!

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