HEART OF DARKNESS Opera Plays Stages From London To Brooklyn
In Joseph Conrad's 1902 literary masterpiece Heart of Darkness, Marlow, a riverboat captain, voyages from London into the African Congo at the height of European colonialism. Over a hundred years later, Marlow is still travelling - including stops in New York where Orson Welles' The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast a version, and in Hollywood the story was transformed into Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now ...then more recently to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where for the past five years a chamber opera by composer Tarik O'Regan and librettist Tom Phillips has taken shape under the guidance of the local opera company, American Opera Projects. On November 1, Heart of Darkness will return to London for its world premiere at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Theatre in a co-production with London's Opera East Productions.
Tenor Robert Hoyt as Marlow at the Brooklyn workshops of the opera Heart of Darkness produced by American Opera Projects.
Unable to find assistance for the initial developmental stages of their work on their home isles, the London-based team of Tarik O'Regan (AOP's Composer in Residence during 2009/10 season) and Tom Phillips came to American Opera Projects (AOP), in Brooklyn, to help nurture the opera. AOP General Director Charles Jarden writes that "Tarik and Tom's inspired vision of the novella's transformation into music theater, combined with Tarik's rigorous attention to the AOP feedback mechanism-strengthening new work - was an ideal match from the beginning. AOP has gone on to commission a new opera from Tarik that we look forward to presenting in Fort Greene in 2012." As part of AOP's First Chance opera development program, the staff assembled a cast of singers to participate in the first public concert reading at ART/NY's South Oxford Space in Fort Greene in June 2006. Over the next few years, additional workshops would be produced at South Oxford Space, as well as the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ and Symphony Space in Manhattan where The New York Times described the piece as "... a dense, dreamlike chamber opera heavily tinged with exoticism, like 'Death in Venice' on steroids." At each performance, the composer and librettist dutifully noted the audience response to the work, crafting the piece into a moody one-act that conveys all of the complex themes and characters that made Conrad's novella a must-read in English classes all over the world.
The positive feedback on these workshops filtered back over the Atlantic where the opera Production Company Opera East productions would help interest ROH2, dedicated to bringing "new and innovative work to the Royal Opera House," and to ultimately co-produce the premiere at ROH's Linbury Studio Theatre in Covent Garden, London starting November 1, 2011.
"I'm delighted that this exciting collaboration has come to fruition at the Royal Opera House," says O'Regan. "It's been a wonderful journey for Tom and myself: one that began in Brooklyn with American Opera Projects and has arrived in London with Opera East and ROH2. With much of my work on the opera undertaken in New York and with Tom based mostly in London, it's been a transatlantic creative partnership in the truest sense. Our seafaring protagonist, Marlow, would approve we hope!"