Monday, December 26, 2016

NYT: opera about Florida 50s gay witch hunts among 2016's best classical efforts

From the gray lady, herself:
     “Fellow Travelers,” by the composer Gregory Spears and the librettist Greg Pierce, is the most romantic new opera I have seen in years. It’s also one of the most successfully political. Its premiere in June at Cincinnati Opera proved uncannily timely, coming days after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The opera’s story, adapted from Thomas Mallon’s novel, follows the love affair of two federal government workers in the 1950s, under the shadow of the “Lavender Scare,” the gay witch hunt whipped up by Senator Joseph McCarthy. As one character notes, going to the wrong bar back then could lose a gay man his job. Today, more than half a century of presumed progress later, going to the wrong club could cost him his life.
     But what makes “Fellow Travelers” such a satisfying operatic experience is the old-fashioned combination of a swift-flowing and deft libretto and gorgeous music. Mr. Spears has the rare gift of artful plunder, knowing how to pluck stylistic elements from earlier centuries and weave them into a sleek and propulsive score that is accessible but unmistakably modern. With his light touch, Mr. Spears has created a tender study of innocence and the rewards and risks that lie on the other side of its destruction. [Read the review] — CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM

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