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Be Prepared To Be Scared with USHER HOUSE Opera


Poe's quintessential gothic tale loosely serves as the basis for Gordon Getty's opera.

Be Prepared To Be Scared with USHER HOUSE Opera

Usher House, with a libretto by the composer after Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, features conductor Lawrence Foster leading the Orquestra Gulbenkian, with singers Christian Elsner, Etienne Dupuis, Phillip Ens, Lisa Delan, and special guest actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Poe's quintessential gothic tale loosely serves as the 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 Canterville Ghost, whose libretto is also by the composer, is based on the 1887 short story of the same name by Oscar Wilde. In Wilde's story, an American family moves into an English castle inhabited by a centuries-old ghost who ultimately ends up terrorized by the very family he is trying to haunt.

Mr. Getty states: "The dos and don'ts of romantic comedy are pretty much eternal. In The Canterville Ghost Wilde has given us, in short story form, one such romantic comedy of unique beauty and genius, though with heartbreak and redemption along the way. We laugh and cry, and are enriched. I added music, and some words, with the same intention.

"All of its characters who actually sing are meant as endearing. The Otises and Sir Simon are sent up, but we must want to hug them all. Virginia sees most deeply, gets the ideas and makes things happen. Sir Simon would still be lugging his chains but for her. The girl in a romantic comedy must make the audience want to protect her, all the more so for her spunk and moxie.

"Stage and page have different needs. For my opera, Sir Simon's murder of his wife, three centuries before, and his breezy justification of it to Virginia, would grate against the wholesome and family-friendly theme. The libretto, like the 1944 movie with Charles Laughton, changes this detail. The bloodstain is also relocated from the floor to the armor, so that the audience can see it. Also Canterville and Cheshire are given more continuous roles, Washington Otis is left out, and Mrs. Umney is seen but not heard. These changes reflect no critique of Wilde."

The CD features the Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Matthias Foremny, with singers Alexandra Hutton, Jean Broekhuizen, Jonathan Michie, Timothy Oliver, Anooshah Golesorkhi, Matthew Treviño, Denise Wernly and Rachel Marie Hauge.

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