An Opera yet to be Born

I saw an article in the press recently which bemoaned the lack of contemporary operas being written – and performed. To catch the ear of a future audience for such works there has to be some guarantee that the opera is good enough to enter the repertoire, and to cover costs. Operas are notoriously expensive – orchestras, singers, dancers perhaps, a chorus, a famous conductor and a huge stage to fill with activity -it’s all very expensive. I see the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London has just signed a contract for over £5M with a record company as a way of increasing revenue and putting some of their productions on DVD which is increasingly taking over from CD’s, where there is an obvious advantage that you can see as well as hear the performance.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York – massively subsidised by wealthy patronage has commissioned the film director Anthony Minghella to write the libretto for a new work which he will also direct to be presented in the 2011-12 season.

Responsible for such films as ‘ The Talented Mr Ripley and ‘Cold Mountain’, Minghella shows an almost operatic flair in his films and his production of ‘Madam Butterfly’ at London’s English National Opera which then transferred to the Met last year, was widely regarded.

The composer for the new work will be the Argentinean Osvaldo Golijov who. although in touch with Minghella recently and planning to meet him again in London next September, has so far ‘not written a single note’. Well, 2011 is a long way away but also a long time to wait to see how the opera is received. Some of us may not be around to find out! But this way of working interests me : two gifted people brought together and left to create music.

Golivov’s earlier years were spent in Romania and Ukraine and, of Jewish birth, he spent some time in Israel before he and his wife moved to Argentina.

He has written the music for the American film director Francis Ford Coppola’s latest film, yet to be released. Coppola says that he was attracted to Golijov because of his ‘consummate musicianship, classical training and a sense of modern life and the integration of the past and present into a generous musical canvas. But also because he is a ‘kind and interesting human being and a wonderful friend.’