Gordon Getty's USHER HOUSE to Premiere at Welsh National Opera, 13-15 June
Composer Gordon Getty's opera Usher House will receive its world stage premiere as part of Welsh National Opera's double bill titled The Fall of the House of Usher on Friday, June 13, and Sunday, June 15, 2014, in Cardiff, Wales, and Friday, June 20, 2014 in Birmingham. The Getty opera will be paired with Robert Orledge's completed version of Debussy's La Chute de la Maison Usher. A co-production with San Francisco Opera, the double bill will receive its United States premiere in San Francisco in December 2015.
Based on Edgar Allan Poe's macabre tale, the story follows the reclusive Roderick Usher living in his vast ancestral home with his sick twin sister, Madeline. On the arrival of Roderick's friend, Madeline dies and is buried in a vault beneath the house. The climax of the tale is reached when Madeline's figure appears at the bedroom door during a storm - she had been buried alive and has clawed her way out of the vault to find her brother. As the friend flees the scene, he turns back to see the House of Usher splitting in two, collapsing around the siblings.
Poe's quintessential gothic tale serves as the loose basis for Gordon Getty's opera. As the composer explains, "I found myself taking liberties. To start, I have made Poe himself the narrator who lives to tell the tale. More radically, I have conceived him and the doomed siblings as types of an antebellum warmth and gallantry which hardly exist anywhere in the prose of the real Poe, and must be counter to his purposes here. I have added other gothic staples - forbidden knowledge, a Faustian pact, ghostly ancestors - and have shifted all into a tale of good and evil and redemption. Good means Poe and the siblings, evil means Primus and the ancestors, and Madeline becomes the agent of redemption."
The production, which will be directed by WNO Chief Executive and Artistic Director David Pountney, takes inspiration from the film genre with cinematic effects that are set to heighten the horror experience. The creative team includes Video Designer David Haneke, an experienced short film maker and video designer for stage events. David Haneke will incorporate projections from filming on location at National Trust property Penrhyn Castle near Bangor, North Wales, which will be used on stage to intensify the mysterious and macabre atmosphere and take audiences on a journey inside the House of Usher.
David Pountney says, "I heard the Getty opera being recorded in Lisbon. I found it a nuanced and atmospheric telling of the story of The Fall of the House of Usher, so I wanted to do the premiere in Wales. Gordon Getty's exceptionally subtle setting of the text, derived from Poe, brings a special quality of brooding menace to the story."
Usher House will feature Benjamin Bevan in the role of Roderick Usher. Jason Bridges will sing the role of Edgar Allan Poe, bringing the author and Gothic master to life. Madeline Usher will be sung by Anna Gorbachyova, who also sings the role of Lady Madeline in La Chute de la Maison Usher alongside Robert Haywood as Roderick Usher.
Henry Fogel, in Fanfare, said of the piece, "In addition to Getty's typically strong vocal writing, the orchestration of this work is imaginative and colorful.... Usher House merits exploration on the part of anyone interested in hearing a conservative but imaginative voice in contemporary opera."
Photo by David Haneke