VIDEO: Dr. Rob Istad Interviews THE RADIO HOUR Composer Jake Heggie and Conductor John Alexander, Parts 1 & 2
The internationally-acclaimed Pacific Chorale in Orange County, CA will be presenting a new work created by American opera composer Jake Heggie, and the versatile librettist Gene Scheer entitled "THE RADIO HOUR". The choral opera will be conducted by Pacific Chorale's Artistic Director, John Alexander, and stage-directed by James R. Taulli. The premiere work will be performed by the organization's chamber choir, The John Alexander Singers, accompanied by an 8-member ensemble of musicians who are members of Pacific Symphony. The performance is on Sunday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, CA. Scroll down to see an interview with composer Jake Heggie and conductor John Alexander!
"Pacific Chorale is charting new territory with this premiere work in that we are combining the genres of choral music with opera," said John Alexander, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Chorale. "We are actually bringing the audience into the music and making it a personal experience for them by using dramatic elements to help tell the story."
The one-act (40-minute) work tells the story of a woman named "Nora" (played by Eve Himmelheber) who is feeling "down" and, as we all do, has to make a choice between the negative voices and the positive voices she hears in her head. When Nora's radio magically opens like a portal, she finds herself entering a world of music, like Alice stepping through the looking glass. Her experience there helps Nora to oversome the negative voices she hears - and transforms her in a way that makes her feel hopeful and positive, again.
"It was a challenge," Heggie admits, "to combine the idioms of opera, with its traditional emphasis on staging and soloists, and the collaborative but visually static choral art form." The solution he and Scheer finally hit upon was an ingenious twist on the monodrama: The sole character, Nora, is performed by a silent actress, performing in pantomime and dance. Her internal dialogue is supplied by the voices of a 2-part chorus (representing the negative voice or the positive voice) who become an integral and active part in the unfolding drama, rather than simply commenting upon, reacting to, or providing background for, the lead, as the traditional opera chorus might.
Jake Heggie is the acclaimed American composer of the operas Moby-Dick, Dead Man Walking (presented in Orange County by Opera Pacific in 2002), Three Decembers, The End of the Affair, To Hell and Back, At the Statue of Venus, and Out of Darkness. He has also composed more than 250 songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works. His songs, song cycles and operas are championed internationally by some of the most celebrated singers of our time, including William Burden, Stephen Costello, Joyce DiDonato, Nathan Gunn, Susan Graham, Ben Heppner, Jonathan Lemalu, Jay Hunter Morris, Patti LuPone, Robert Orth, Kiri Te Kanawa, Morgan Smith, Frederica von Stade, Talise Trevigne, and Bryn Terfel, to name a few. Heggie's operas have been produced internationally on five continents.
Librettist Gene Scheer has collaborated with Heggie on a number of projects, including the operas and stage works Another Sunrise, Moby-Dick, Three Decembers, To Hell and Back, --and the song cycle Camille Claudel: Into the Fire, which was premiered by Joyce di Donato and the Alexander String Quartet. He has also collaborated as librettist with Tobias Picker on the operas An American Tragedy and Thérèse Raquin, and with Jennifer Higdon on a recently completed operatic adaptation of Cold Mountain. He provided the words for Wynton Marsalis's "It Never Goes Away" and Steven Stucky's Grammy Award-nominated oratorio August 4, 1964 A composer in his own right, Scheer has also written songs for Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn.
"Opera is an evolving art form that grows richer through reinterpretation and reinvention," said Marc A. Scorca, President & CEO of Opera America. "THE RADIO HOUR is wonderfully innovative in concept, even as it reaches back to opera's origins in Greek drama. It combines art forms by promoting the choir into the leading role and portraying the main character through acting and dance. Opera is already a fusion of many arts, but "Radio Hour" intensifies the combination of music, acting and dance across traditional boundaries. It promises to be very exciting to a broad audience."
"I applaud Pacific Chorale and their co-commissioners (VocalEssence, The Philadelphia Singers and Conspirare) for presenting this innovative new choral opera," said Ann Meier Baker, President & CEO of Chorus America. "Today's audiences are looking for 'experiences' and this concert promises to deliver exactly that - through the combination of the choral, music, dance, and theater art forms."