Opera About Van Gogh, VINCENT, Makes its Premiere 4/8

By: Mar. 30, 2011
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While exploring Amsterdam's Vincent van Gogh Museum on its opening day, in 1973, a young composer was inspired to dream that he would one day write an opera about the Dutch-born painter who forever changed the world of art. Now, nearly 40 years later, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rand's lifelong ambition is about to be fulfilled.

Vincent will receive its world premiere on Friday, April 8, 2011, at 8 p.m. in Bloomington's Musical Arts Center as the final production of the 2010-11 Indiana University Opera Theater season. Additional performances are April 9, 15 and 16. A pre-performance presentation about the opera with Rands and other members of the artistic team will take place each night at 7 p.m.

The first two performances of Vincent will be live-streamed at http://music.indiana.edu/iumusiclive.

Rands collaborated with renowned poet and librettist J. D. McClatchy, described by Rands as "the foremost poetic, scholarly and creative librettist of our time" to complete the portrayal of this extraordinary life. Vincent is McClatchy's second world premiere with IU Opera Theater -- the first was Our Town, composed by Ned Rorem and premiered in 2006.

Jacobs professor Vincent Liotta will stage direct -- as he did for Our Town -- with guest production designer Barry Steele, Jacobs professor and conductor Arthur Fagen, and Assistant Professor of Costume Design Linda Pisano from the IU Department of Theatre and Drama.

This bold new opera reveals the complex character of an artistic genius, religious fanatic, alcoholic and epileptic and the extremes to which his private vision drove him, culminating in his haunting madness as well as in his triumph as an artist who gave the world a new image of itself.

"For two hours, I want the audience to be in the world of Vincent," Rands said. "Every aspect of the production -- the costumes, the lighting, the painting, the colors, the music, the text, the poetry -- should pull toward depicting this man and his relationship to his art."

The entire stage will become a 3-D surface on which to project hundreds of electronic images of Van Gogh's drawings, sketches, letters and paintings as well as some by his contemporaries, weaving the images dynamically into the music and action. "There will be a few props but no physical scenery," Liotta said.

Designer Steele said the stage becomes "an image of the darkness in Van Gogh's troubled mind, where ideas he had about the world develop," offering "shifting panoramas of his imagination and creativity."

Liotta explains that the visual aspects of the production are "based on the world as Van Gogh saw it so that the world that surrounds him looks like the world as he sees it, not the world we would see if we were taking a photograph of it."

Vincent sings, "To see the world in his mind, this is why a man paints." Liotta said they have reversed that concept, using the images van Gogh created to recreate the world in his mind.

In addition to performances by the talented singers from the IU Jacobs School of Music, two guests -- Christopher Burchett and David Adam Moore -- will assume the lead role with accompaniment from the Philharmonic Orchestra.

The opera has been commissioned by the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Indiana University music department in 1910.

IU Opera Theater is currently in its 62nd year of producing internationally acclaimed productions, including many world, American and collegiate premieres.

"It's going to be a very intense ride, and, I think, an absolutely thrilling and moving one," McClatchy said.

For more information about the opera Vincent, including photo galleries, a feature article in IU Music magazine and more, visit http://music.indiana.edu/opera.

About Bernard Rands

Bernard Rands is a major figure in contemporary music and is the 1984 Pulitzer Prize winner. His numerous works have been performed and recorded worldwide under conductors ranging from Barenboim, Boulez, and Berio to Maazel, Mehta, Ozawa, Salonen and Dohnanyi. His Canti d'Amor, recorded by Chanticleer, won a Grammy Award in 2000. He has been honored by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which inducted him in 2004. Many major orchestras, ensembles and festivals around the globe have commissioned his works. He won the 1986 Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for his Tambourin Suites, which are based on several Van Gogh paintings and drawings and served as a sketch for the music of Vincent.

About J. D. McClatchy

J. D. McClatchy is a highly acclaimed poet, librettist and translator. He has written six volumes of poetry and 13 librettos as well as a recent translation of seven Mozart librettos. Among his recent librettos are Lorin Maazel's 1984, co-written with Thomas Meehan; Lowell Liebermann's Miss Lonelyhearts; Elliot Goldenthal's Grendel, co-written with Julie Taymor; Ned Rorem's Our Town (premiered in 2006 at Indiana University); and the upcoming Giorgio Battistelli's, An Inconvenient Truth. Among his many honors, he was named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1996, was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998 and elected in 1999 to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he became president in 2009. He has taught at Princeton, Yale, Columbia, UCLA, Johns Hopkins and other universities. Currently, he is a professor of English at Yale, where he is editor of The Yale Review.



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