Friday, April 3, 2009

Houston Grand Opera Premiers Andre Previn

Houston Grand Opera closes the 2008–09 season with its 39th world premiere, Andre Previn’s Brief Encounter, at the Wortham Theater Center’s Brown Theater, May 1 – May 8, 2009. Brief Encounter is German-born American pianist, conductor and composer Andre Previn’s second opera.

His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, which won the Grand Prix du Disques recording award, had its premiere in San Francisco in 1998 to much acclaim and continues to be performed internationally. The winner of four Academy Awards (Best original musical score: Gigi, Porgy and Bess, Irma la douce and My Fair Lady) and ten Grammy Awards, Mr. Previn has also received Lifetime Achievement Awards from Gramophone Magazine, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“Andre Previn is one of the great iconic musical figures of our time. He has transcended any genre of music that he has chosen to compose in; thus the opportunity to commission an opera from him is irresistibly exciting.”
- Houston Grand Opera General Director and CEO Anthony Freud.

Brief Encounter is an opera in two acts, based on the play Still Life and the screen play to the 1945 David Lean film Brief Encounter, both by Noel Coward. “It’s the film itself—a tale of doomed love—which I thought was so perfect and so beautifully written, directed and acted that it had to be an opera,” states Previn. John Caird, who holds two Tony Awards for his direction of Les Miserables and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, is both the librettist and director for Brief Encounter. “Noel Coward, as a writer, had a deeply empathetic understanding of relationships,” explains Caird. “In Brief Encounter, he has written a story of what it is like to fall in love in a completely unexpected way, out of the blue, not expecting it to happen and that makes the source very suitable for operatic adaptation.”

"In creating an opera out of Brief Encounter – not at all like composing a film score, says Previn, and he's written many – he found scarcely anything to add to Lean's beautifully crafted film." - The Independent

Based upon the play Still Life and the screenplay of the 1945 film Brief Encounter, both by Noël Coward, the opera Brief Encounter is an honest, compassionate look at emotional infidelity. During the early years of World War II in England, Laura Jesson takes the train to a nearby town once a week for shopping and a movie. A chance encounter with Alec Harvey—who, like Laura, is married with two children—leads quickly to passion. They continue to meet surreptitiously until they must finally decide between love and honor.

Houston Grand Opera's production of Brief Encounter stars soprano Elizabeth Futral and baritone Nathan Gunn as Laura and Alec, the couple torn between love and loyalty. Veteran baritone Kim Josephson sings the role of Laura’s bewildered husband. Houston Grand Opera Music Director Patrick Summers conducts. Bunny Christie is the set and costume designer and Paul Pyant is the lighting designer.

Premieres May 1, 2009 at the Houston Grand Opera.

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