Stewart Copeland's New Opera ELECTRIC SAINT to Premiere in Weimar in 2020
In a working partnership approaching three decades, composer Stewart Copeland and librettist Jonathan Moore bring their latest opera "Electric Saint" to Kunstfest Weimar in September of 2020. The project is a co-commission of the innovative Kunstfest alongside Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar (DNT). The world premiere performance will take place at Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar on September 6, 2020, with seven subsequent performances in Weimar.
"We are proud to introduce this highly acknowledged and prolific creative duo-the legendary rock star Stewart Copeland and the librettist and director Jonathan Moore-to continental opera audiences," said Rolf Hemke, Director of Kunstfest Weimar. "They have chosen a theme which is emblematic of our time: dealing with the existential struggle of turbocapitalism against an altruistic attitude for the common good. We are proud to combine musical excellence with a thought-provoking, politically engaged staging to seduce new audiences to attend an exciting piece of contemporary music theatre!"
"As an opera house with a rich history, we are also committed to the present: numerous world premieres have taken place on the stage of the DNT in recent years," adds Hans-Georg Wegner, Opera Director of the DNT. "Now we are looking forward to a special kind of collaboration: a highly topical theme in an opera created by two outstanding artists of our time. Let this opera electrify people!"
After three previous operas together, including two literary adaptations (2013's "The Tell-Tale Heart" for Royal Opera House Covent Garden and 2017's "The Invention of Morel" for Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera), Copeland and Moore turn to the real-life rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, brilliant minds and inventors with diametrically opposing philosophies. Perhaps the best modern analogy would be Bill Gates and Steve Jobs: one a radical, detail-oriented genius, the other a talented inventor but also a shrewd marketer and businessman. Tesla believed that electricity and power should be free for the good of humankind; Edison instead saw them as an opportunity to enhance his own personal wealth.
"Tesla was an emotional man with a high-octane frenzy of inspiration so his music crashes like waves upon the shore," remarks Copeland. "Illuminating dry scientific concepts with operatic emotional intensity was a challenge, but it ultimately led to interesting uses for the human voice. Humans can sound like electrons!"
Equally interesting to Moore and Copeland is Tesla's relationship to faith and the divine. His father was a priest, and Tesla himself never saw a conflict between his own spiritual beliefs and his dedication to scientific progress-a duality that comes across within the opera's title. Copeland, raised by strictly observant atheists, has been drawn to religious stories and themes in other compositions, including the forthcoming oratorio "Satan's Fall," drawn from Milton's "Paradise Lost." Meanwhile, Moore feels that there need not necessarily be any mutual exclusivity between science and spirituality, and that spiritual insights may offer new perspectives on one's appreciation for the scientific underpinnings of the universe, and vice versa.
Tesla and Edison may have been rivals, but Copeland and Moore have shared a perfectly complementary working relationship since 1992's "Horse Opera" for British Channel 4 TV. Neither can say enough good things about the other. "Stewart has one of the finest minds of anyone I've ever met," enthuses Moore. "His attention to detail and focus, combined with his near-superhuman levels of energy, are remarkable and inspiring. We both take the work extremely seriously, but we also have a huge amount of fun and laughter."
"He's mad, but he's a genius," says Copeland of Moore. "He conjures up wildly imaginative scenes that, for all the eccentricity, speak with searing clarity."
Through the questions it raises about the nature of genius, the symbiosis between faith and science, and whether technology should be used for common good or the enrichment of a few, Moore and Copeland see plenty that's current and timely about "Electric Saint." Copeland has an even simpler explanation:
"After a day without power recently, I realized that our entire modern ecosystem is completely dependent on electricity, an invention of Nikola Tesla, a man of God! So, the contemporary relevance is: everything."
About Stewart Copeland
Stewart Copeland has spent more than three decades at the forefront of contemporary music as rock star and acclaimed film composer, as well as in the disparate worlds of opera, ballet, and world and chamber music.
Recruiting Sting and Andy Summers in 1977, Copeland is renowned as the founder of The Police, a band that became a defining force in rock music from the '80s through to the present day. His career includes the sale of more than 60 million records worldwide, and numerous awards, including five Grammy awards.
Copeland moved beyond the rock arena in the mid-1980s when he returned to his classical roots with creative pursuits in concert and film music. His most recent concert works include BEN-HUR, A Tale of the Christ which features Copeland as soloist in a live orchestral score for the 1925 silent film; Tyrant's Crush: Concerto for Trapset and Orchestra commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Poltroons in Paradise commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; and Gamelan D'Drum, commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the world percussion group D'Drum.
In 2017, The Chicago Opera Theater premiered Copeland's surreal chamber opera The Invention of Morel, a co-commission with Long Beach Opera based on the novel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Copeland has also written two operas based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe: The Cask of Amontillado and The Tell-Tale Heart. The Sheriff of Luxembourg, Stewart Copeland's rousing new work for solo percussion and tape, was premiered by Christoph Sietzen in Cologne and toured in Europe throughout the 2018/19 season.
Recipient of the Hollywood Film Festival's first Outstanding Music in Film Visionary Award, a Grammy nominee for his 2005 CD Orchestralli, and a 2003 inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Copeland has been responsible for some of the film world's most innovative and groundbreaking scores. His numerous film scores include Oliver Stone's Wall Street, the seminal score for the Golden Globe-nominated soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish, and the score for Bruno Barreto's Oscar-nominated Four Days in September.
About Jonathan Moore
A London-based, multi award-winning British/Irish actor, published playwright, librettist and director, Jonathan Moore has worked at the leading venues in Britain and internationally: Royal Shakespeare Co, English National Opera, La Fenice Venice, National Theatre, West End, Shakespeare's Globe, Royal Opera House, BBC TV and Radio, Almeida, Donmar, Arcola, The Gate, La Fenice Venice, Chicago Opera Theatre, Savannah Festival, Munich Biennale, and pioneering site specific work including a converted slaughterhouse in Zaragoza, Spain, A Crane factory in Munich, and in the eighties squatted a performance space with experimental Industrial band, Test Dept under old disused Railway arches at London Bridge (these performances raided by the police), and many more.
He directed (and co-wrote the libretto for) the world premiere opera of "Greek" by Mark Anthony Turnage (Munich Biennale and ENO) which received an Olivier Award nomination and Best Libretto Award, Munich Biennale. He also co-directed the BBC Film version, winning the Royal Philharmonic Society Award and a MIDEM award at Cannes. He has recently had two hit shows in New York (BAM) in the space of a month: he directed the world premiere of "Ashes and Snow/ Savage Winter" by Douglas J. Cuomo at Pittsburgh Opera, February 2018. This was also seen at BAM, widely hailed as the hit of the Next Wave Festival in November 2018, just before "Greek". The Scottish Opera production played at BAM in November 2018 for which he was interviewed in the New York Times.
He recently directed a universally acclaimed 30th Anniversary production of "Greek" for the Arcola Grimeborn Festival, London, which was selected as one of the Best Productions of the Year by the London Evening Standard. It will be seen in a major new tour by English Touring Opera and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, 2020. His latest project with Ludovico Einaudi and Colm Toibin at Teatro Massimo Palermo was featured on the front page of the New York Times Europe edition.
About Weimar Kunstfest
In 2019 Weimar Kunstfest marked its 30th anniversary year under the new artistic directorship of Rolf C. Hemke with a sweeping program that united theatrical productions, concerts, silent film screenings with live music accompaniment and installations alongside discussions, readings, debates and lectures with world-renowned and emerging artists. Katie Mitchell, Falk Richter, Shirin Neshat, Georg Baselitz, Matthias Goerne and Ali Chahrour were just some of the outstanding International Artists featured in the 30th Festival.
The Festival was established in Weimar 30th years ago, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. It was the first major cultural event to be funded by the new Government.
Weimar, in Central Germany, has long been an epicenter of culture in Western Europe and some of the greatest artists of all time made their lives and created their masterworks there, including Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Liszt, Nietzsche, Gropius and Kandinsky. It is also the place in which Bauhaus began.
Weimar is a stunning historic town and in addition to the Festival a trip to Weimar can take in the new Bauhaus Centenary Museum and no less than 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites which survived the first and second World Wars.
The democracy formalized in the Weimar Reich Constitution and signed in the city 100 years ago led to a flourishing of experimental culture across music, art, dance and theatre which has shaped European and world cultures today.
About Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar and Staatskapelle Weimar
The Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar (DNT) is one of Germany's most historically distinguished theatres and home to both an outstanding drama and opera ensemble and the Staatskapelle Weimar, one of the world's oldest orchestras with a rich tradition spanning centuries. Their eventful history is closely associated with the heroes of the classical era, Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, as well as some of the world's best-known musicians, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss. The theatre and the orchestra proudly look back on numerous world premieres including Schiller's most famous historical dramas, internationally renowned orchestral works by Liszt and Strauss et al. and operas, e.g. Wagner's "Lohengrin" and Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel". Aside from its artistic achievements, the theatre also played a central role in German history when the National Assembly convened at the newly renamed Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar in 1919 to craft the constitution of Germany's first parliamentary democratic republic, later known as the Weimar Republic.
To this day, the DNT is a popular and esteemed cultural venue which attracts audiences from around the region and throughout the country. The Staatskapelle Weimar enjoys a national and international reputation as a first-class concert orchestra. With more than 700 performances and concerts held at various venues each year, they both strongly contribute to the city's event calendar. Contemporary interpretations of the German classics and the romantic repertoire play just as an important role as the world premieres of new plays and operas, e.g. most recently "The Circle" by Ludger Vollmer based on Dave Egger's bestselling novel. The DNT is also committed to engaging in dialogue with the city's residents through various discussion formats on current social issues.