Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kevin Puts Gives Cinematic Scope To New Opera In Minnesota

Cast Your Votes: Composer Kevin Puts
"Like the kid who won baseball’s Triple Crown in his rookie season, Kevin Puts returns to Minnesota Opera with the eyes and ears of the music world upon him. His first opera, Silent Night, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for music, and his sophomore attempt, The Manchurian Candidate, launches its world premiere at Ordway Center on Saturday. He has again teamed with librettist Mark Campbell, and early listens in workshops and rehearsals justify an optimism and curiosity about this new work. Dale Johnson, the opera’s artistic director, told a gathering of cast, designers and staff that he believed that The Manchurian Candidate is 'the best thing we’ve ever done.' Kevin Newbury, who is directing the staging, added that he believed that Minnesota Opera was 'looking toward the future' with this new piece. 'Our goal is for audiences to say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that,’' Newbury said. And Tomer Zvulun, director of the Atlanta Opera, upped the ante in a recent conversation about Puts. 'He is the composer of our generation,' said Zvulun, who directed the European premiere of Silent Night at the Wexford Festival. 'He understands with a witty partner in crime [Campbell] that we live in a generation that expects strong, fast stories.' No wonder Puts, a modest and polite gentleman, admits in understatement, 'There is a lot more pressure and expectation now.' The composer of his generation still has to work for a living. He was just finishing two long days of
auditioning students at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore when he took an evening phone call from a reporter. He would be in Minneapolis the next day for a Manchurian Candidate rehearsal
and an evening promotional event in St. Paul. He’d then fly to Kansas City for a quick trip to buck up the Lyric Opera troops staging Silent Night and then head home to Yonkers, N.Y., for his son’s weekend birthday party. The following Monday, he’d return to the Twin Cities for the two weeks running up to opening night. This doesn’t even touch the stack of projects on his piano at home, including another opera with Campbell for Opera Philadelphia and a commission from the Baltimore Symphony for a piece intended to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Carnegie Hall. 'When I worry about stress and schedule, I have to step back and think, ‘Come on, I’m writing classical music for a living.’' he said. 'I mean, if I were a pop musician — the world really wants that, but classical? It is unbelievable that I can call this a career.' Puts, who turned 43 in January, grew up in St. Louis with all the distractions and video influences of his generation. His music is frequently called 'cinematic' rather than 'operatic' for its sense of movement, its evocation of image and its striking drama. He accepts that assessment, saying that he didn’t grow up with opera. 'I know a lot of people hear my operas and say, ‘It’s just not opera. It’s too quick; it doesn’t have these long arias.’' Zvulun, who flew to Minneapolis last December to see a workshop performance of The Manchurian Candidate, said he believes that it is those very qualities that distinguish Puts’ music. On that Saturday afternoon, Zvulun and an invited audience of donors, board members, journalists and opera friends heard a work that built a constant thread of tension, shifting gears instantly from Stravinsky influences to Dixieland, from Sousa to Twilight Zone — with huge, knuckle-busting crunchy chords dissolving into single, persistent notes. The music told its story with a pulsing rhythmic propulsion." [Source] Watch videos, hear audio excerpts, and purchase tickets to the Minnesota Opera production of The Manchurian Candidate by clicking here. (Photos by Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune)

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