Pittsburgh Opera's '17-18 Season Books Works by Living Composers

By Bloom, Elizabeth | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), February 10, 2017 | Go to article overview

Pittsburgh Opera's '17-18 Season Books Works by Living Composers


Bloom, Elizabeth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Is any entity in this city doing more to present works by living composers than Pittsburgh Opera?

Outside of new-music groups, almost certainly not. Next season, the company continues its tilt toward contemporary music, staging three pieces by living composers, including a world premiere and mainstage production of Jake Heggie's "Moby-Dick" (March 17-25, 2018).

Mr. Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer's 2010 opera is based on the epic Herman Melville novel. Pittsburgh Opera will present a new production by Erhard Rom at the Benedum Center.

The company has a special relationship with Mr. Heggie, who is known for his tuneful, lyrical compositions. In 2004, his "Dead Man Walking" was the first contemporary opera Pittsburgh Opera performed at the Benedum, and it marked a turning point for the company, general director Christopher Hahn said.

"Moby-Dick," which takes place entirely on a whaling ship, has just one female role, the pants role of Pip, portrayed by soprano Jacqueline Echols. Other performers include former resident artist Sean Panikkar and bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana, making his company debut.

In the winter, the company's resident artists will be showcased in two new chamber operas. Jeremy Howard Beck's "The Long Walk" (Jan. 20-28) follows an Iraq War veteran's struggles to acclimate to life back home. The opera, which will be performed at Pittsburgh CAPA, is based on Brian Castner's memoir of the same name.

"It's actually a tough story and it delves into the psychological stress and dissonance of his psychological stage," Mr. Hahn said.

Then the company will give the world premiere at Pittsburgh Opera headquarters of Douglas J. Cuomo's one-man opera, "Ashes & Snow" (Feb. 17-25, 2018). The piece, scored for electronics, electric guitar, trumpet, keyboard and voice (tenor Eric Ferring), is an English translation of poems from Schubert's "Winterreise." The work, which will later appear at Brooklyn Academy of Music, follows the interior state of a man who wakes up in a desert motel, plunging toward rock bottom.

"It's the journey of the mind through the solo voice and the small instrumental complement," Mr. …

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