Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jonas Kaufmann Speaks Out On Opera Post WWII

A recent BBC interview with supertenor Jonas Kaufmann has sparked some controversy amongst opera aficionados. During the interview Herr Kaufmann stated:

"... With only few exceptions, when we've ... the Second World War has, has stopped composers from writing beautiful music for eternity. Everything after that is just a statement of what is going on at that moment and it's outdated in a matter of years."

While I was disappointed, I was not in the least surprised by Herr Kaufmann's statement of belief that nothing (or precious little) of note has been composed since WWII. This seems to be a typical stance for those who want to remain mired in the operatic past. It's not all that different from arguments that "nothing great has been composed since the death of Mozart." These types of statements used to set my teeth on edge and prompt me towards fighting. Now, I just think its a bunch of nonsense and a defense to allow one to keep themselves in a box of their own choosing. While Kaufmann - and millions of others may not believe it to be so, there are a GREAT number of works that have been written since the end of WWII; works that have moved, delighted, haunted and entertained many of us and continue to do so.

Springing first to mine are the notable works of Benjamin Britten: "Peter Grimes" (technically about 2 months before the war ended, but . . . ); "Gloriana"; "The Turn of the Screw"; "Death in Venice"; "Billy Budd"; "The Rape of Lucretia' "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; Dallapiccola's "Il prigioniero"; Tippett's "King Priam"; Menotti's "The Saint of Bleecker Street"; and "The Consul"; Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites"; and "La voix humaine"; Glass' "Satyagraha"; "Akhnaten"; and "La Belle et la Bête"; Ligeti's "Le grand macabre"; Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress;" Messiaen's "Saint François d'Assise"; Heggie's "Dead Man Walking"; Birtwistle's "Gawain"; Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti"; Zimmermann's "Die Soldaten"; Henze's "Die Junge Lord"; and "Boulevard Solitude"; Levy's "Mourning Becomes Electra"; Moore's "The Ballad of Baby Doe"; Walton's "Troilus and Cressida"; Weinberg's "The Passenger"; Ginestera's "Beatrix Cenci"; Saariaho's "L’amour de loin"; John Adams' "El Niño"; "The Death of Klinghoffer"; "Nixon in China"; and "Doctor Atomic"; Hoiby's "The Tempest"; Ades' "The Tempest"; Portman's "The Little Prince"; Tan Dun's "Tea"; Picker's "Thérèse Raquin " and "Emmeline"; DiChiera's "Cyrano"; Thomson's "The Mother of Us All"; Weill's "Street Scene"; Prokofiev's "The Story of a Real Man"; "The Fiery Angel" and "War and Peace"; Blitzstein's "Regina"; Alfano's "Sakùntala" . . . this is merely barest tip of the iceberg.

Blessedly, not all of us think the art of "new" opera died with the Second World War. It's still going strong, baby!