Thursday, December 18, 2008

Update: "Three Decembers"

Not all reviewers gave the new opera "Three Decembers" a luke warm reception. Eman Isadiar of the Epoch Times said,

"Heggie’s music is richly textured and primarily tonal with occasional forays into far-off, sophisticated harmonies. While innovative and moving, Jake Heggie’s music alone is not why Three Decembers is a remarkable contemporary opera, nor is the brilliance of Frederica von Stade as its central figure. Even a fine librettist such as Gene Scheer with his heart-piercing words cannot be credited as the opera’s single most important component, nor can the poignant storyline of the original play by Terrence McNally.

"It is when all of the above line up in perfect order—much like a rare astronomical convergence—that a great work of art is born. Ladies and gentlemen, Three Decembers is that work of art."

However, Jason Victor Serinus from the Bay Area Reporter was not as favorable. He really wanted to love it. The first third of the article is all about how much this opera had going for it. But in the end he said,

"The problem, I regret to say, lay squarely with music and libretto. A host of operas have managed to transcend handicapped librettos by dint of music too ravishing to be ignored – Il Trovatore and scores of baroque masterpieces come to mind. But Heggie's music is not that. Rather than seizing the heart, as he did so well in Dead Man Walking, Heggie chose to write music whose inner tension rarely if ever reflected the heart-tugging dramas of its protagonists. Mother Madeleine may have spent four decades constructing an outward persona that would hide a horrible tragedy, and Charlie may have spent well over 10 years living with a beloved struggling with, then dying of AIDS, but Heggie chose to connect these situations with music that too often had the ambling gait of a Vince Guaraldi score for a Peanuts cartoon.

"...here's hoping that Heggie and Scheer refine and deepen the work before its next production. It ought to evoke raves rather than shrugs."

Since there are more performances in other locations, I agree with Mr Serinus, a bit more work and there may yet be hope for more rave reviews.

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