medici.tv to Stream Annie Proulx's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN Opera from Madrid, Beginning Tomorrow
Month in and month out, medici.tv takes music lovers to one-of-a-kind concert happenings around the world - the next best thing to being there. The next great medici.tv experience is tomorrow, Friday, February 7, at 2pm EST, with the live webcast of Charles Wuorinen's opera Brokeback Mountain, in its much-anticipated premiere production at Madrid's Teatro Real. Wuorinen, the 75-year-old composer who has both a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur "genius" grant to his credit, based his opera on the short story of the same name by fellow Pulitzer-winner Annie Proulx, who also penned the libretto (her first). The heartbreaking story of a complex emotional-sexual relationship between two Wyoming cowboys over 20 years starting in 1963 earned wide renown in Ang Lee's 2005 film version, which won three Academy Awards among many other international prizes. The New York Times first-night review of the Madrid production called Wuorinen's opera "a serious work, an impressive achievement," praising the "intricate, vibrantly orchestrated and often brilliant score that conveys the oppressiveness of the forces that defeat these two men." The review also described the stage production by Belgian director Ivo van Hove as "starkly beautiful," with the conducting by Titus Engel drawing "a pulsing, incisive performance" from the orchestra. The opera stars Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch and American tenor Tom Randle as the closeted ranch hands Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist. The Times review pointed out: "The cast, to a member, embraces every chance to maximize every lyrical bit in the vocal writing."
Wuorinen, whose first opera, Haroun and the Sea of Stories (based on a Salman Rushdie novel), premiered at New York City Opera in 2004, was inspired to attempt a second after watching the film adaptation starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Yet the New York Times pointed out in a recent feature story that "while the success of the film undoubtedly made the new adaptation possible, the opera's creators are clear that the story, which appeared in the New Yorker in 1997, and the opera are each distinct from Mr. Lee's work." Wuorinen and Proulx collaborated closely on the opera, which was commissioned by the Teatro Real's artistic adviser, Gérard Mortier. One of the challenges the composer faced was that of representing Ennis del Mar's inarticulacy through the medium of opera. By turning to Sprechstimme ("speech singing"), Wuorinen was able to show the tragic development of his protagonist vocally; the composer explained: "As time goes on, Ennis stops doing so much Sprechstimme and begins to sing more. This is a gradual process throughout the opera, until finally, when he's alone and he's lost everything at the end, he's able to express himself. But, of course, it's too late."
Describing the aesthetic of both score and staging and its ties to the magnificent yet forbidding landscape of Wyoming, Wuorinen said: "The mountain represents their freedom, their ability to represent themselves to each other. But it's also a very dangerous, threatening place. It looms. In the score and in the production, that will be a presence all the time."
Critical praise grows for medici.tv with each passing month. The Toronto Star called the site "a seismic shift in the world of classical music," while the Classical Voice America described medici.tv as "the invaluable C-SPAN of classical music." According to Alex Ross's blog, The Rest Is Noise, "The hits keep coming at medici.tv." Offering "treasures aplenty" was how Gramophone editor-in-chief James Jolly put it, naming medici.tv as one of the web's best classical experiences.