Minnesota Opera Announces New Commission, DINNER AT EIGHT, 2016-17 Season

Minnesota Opera Announces New Commission, DINNER AT EIGHT, 2016-17 Season

At its annual meeting today, Minnesota Opera announced its commission of Dinner at Eight, a new comic opera by composer William Bolcom and librettist Mark Campbell, based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Minnesota Opera will give the world premiere during its 2016-2017 season at Ordway Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Dinner at Eight is a Depression-era comedy of manners in which the wife of a once-affluent shipping magnate plans a society dinner for an assortment of wealthy or well-born acquaintances. Eventually, the guests' tangled and intimate connections to one another are revealed. The original play opened in 1932 on Broadway at the Music Box Theater, and inspired a star-studded film adaptation the following year. It has enjoyed two Broadway revivals; the opera will be its first musical adaptation.

"It is tremendously gratifying to commission a comic opera, particularly by an American legend like William Bolcom," said Artistic Director Dale Johnson. "The Great Depression provided fodder for a multitude of artistic masterpieces, and Dinner at Eight by Kaufman and Ferber belongs in that category. The play is an ensemble piece, fast-paced and brilliantly witty, filled with extraordinary characters. These are ideal elements for an opera. Both William Bolcom and Mark Campbell straddle the classical and American popular styles, and I can't think of a better combination to bring this sparkling comedy, with its rapid-fire dialogue and hilarious situations, to the opera stage."

William Bolcom, whose music The New York Times described as moving with "a suave assurance that serves comic and dramatic impulses equally well," said, "What I've always loved about the play is its ability to merge humor and emotional depth. The opera will be a high-wire balancing act for both Mark and me - we will need to find just the right tone. In my 50 years of opera and musical theater work, which brought forth three operas for theater and three for opera house, I've never felt a stronger challenge in contemplating this fourth opera, and it makes me feel 76 years young!"

"Dinner at Eight features marital infidelity, financial ruin, social opportunism, a fatal disease and a suicide. Naturally, it's a comedy," said librettist Mark Campbell, who says he is thrilled to be working with Minnesota Opera on this, his fourth commission with the company (Silent Night, The Manchurian Candidate and The Shining are others). "It's also an incisive exploration into the impact of economically compromised times on the American class system-which is very much a part of the New Works Initiative's goals in exploring distinctly American themes. With Dinner at Eight, Bill and I intend to fuse the best traditions of musical theater with those of opera to create a contemporary work that brings out both the light and the dark in the brilliant Kaufman/Ferber play."