Monday, February 14, 2011

Despite Innovative Programming American Opera Theater Closes

The American Opera Theater was a company formed by a group of students that wanted to create a new vision of opera in Baltimore, Maryland. Their final performance was February 12, 2011. Where the opera world is lacking in innovation and looking to hire film directors inexperienced in the medium, this company combined creative ideas with talented performers. The show that took place on Saturday is an emblem of that concept. By creating a co-production with the Handel Choir of Baltimore and Peabody Conservatory, AOT paired a baroque gem from 1689, Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, with a new work by Melissa Dunphy called The Gonzales Cantata. The concept garnered so much publicity that it even caught the attention of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. Sadly more opera company's don't think outside the box to reinvent the classics while introducing audiences to new works. The final paragraph of the company's mission statement reads, "On the forefront of opera production, and continually growing and expanding its horizons, the American Opera Theater is a powerful voice in the American artistic wilderness of the new millennium." Read more a detailed summary of the production and find out more about the American Opera Theater after the jump. [Source]

This double-bill production brings to live the past and future of American Opera Theater. Purcell’s undisputed masterpiece Dido + Aeneas was the first production of American Opera Theater. Gonzales Cantata is a World Premier staging. Written by Melissa Dunphy in 2008, this brilliant work sets to music the transcript from the Alberto Gonzales congressional hearing, in the style of a Handel oratorio. The whole cast of characters are there – Gonzales himself, Patrick Leahy, Diane Feinstein, Arlen Specter, Orrin Hatch, and Maryland’s own Ben Cardin – but in a theatrical coup, the sexes are reversed, the only male in the cast being the tenor in the role of Diane Feinstein. What begins as a witty and absurdist look at American Politics, ends as touching exploration of culpability and lost dreams. In its concert premier the work was featured on MSNBC’s The Rachel Madow Show and in the Wall Street Journal. Now it comes to life on the stage in a comic and touching new production. Dido + Aeneas is one of the most beloved operas ever written. Its musical pathos and dramatic precision have made it universally admired. Timothy Nelson’s acclaimed version of this classic opera combines the casting of Dido and the Sorceress, Belinda and the First Witch, and the Second Woman and the Second Witch, to create an explosive dramatic experience. The story told is that of one woman’s life, a woman suffering from acute depression and mental illness. The only real characters in this version are Dido and Aeneas, all the others are but voices in Dido’s mind that, over the course of one fateful day, evolve into schizophrenic apparitions driving her towards her tragic fate. Performed now all around the world, this production is a powerful example the theatrical power of opera, it transfixes and moves.

American Opera Theater is a leading presenter of innovative opera in the United States. This company continues to garner acclaim for its innovative, challenging, and mesmerizing productions. AOT explores repertoire often left untouched. Combining its informed and honed musical aesthetic with its creative approach to visual affect, AOT produces performances that enliven, delight, and move audiences around the country. AOT frequently mounts the American premier of forgotten works (most recently Charpentier’s David et Jonathas and Cavalli’s La Didone), while also redefining traditional favorites (notably its groundbreaking 2004 version of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas or its recent circus production of Händel’s Acis and Galatea). AOT also enters new artistic territory with contemporary multimedia productions like its acclaimed work Ground, Philip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox, or its staging of song-cycles by George Crumb and the Lecons de Tenebres of Francois Couperin. Based in Baltimore, MD, AOT performs around the world with a busy touring agenda.