Two of Louisville's premier arts companies are showing they are not willing simply to rest on their laurels, content to offer up the same safe fare that, while crowd-pleasing to the core audience, does little to engage those who want to be challenged by new material or to entice a younger generation of potential arts lovers. Don't get me wrong -- there's nothing wrong with offering the classics that people know and love; they are classics for the very reason that people want to hear and see them again and again. But we shouldn't subscribe to the notion that all all opera and classical music creation came to a screeching halt 150 years ago. And while there might be a lucky few who can hop a plane to New York or San Francisco to see the hot new production or the rarely performed opera, that's not an option for most of us. Having the opportunity to see them in our own city, on the other hand, is pretty terrific.
Having just wrapped up a successful season mixing in the lesser known with the uber-popular, Kentucky Opera takes an even bolder leap for its 2014-2015 season. Not only are there lesser known works by great composers, but Louisville audiences will also see works that focus on the American experience.
Beethoven's sole opera, Fidelio, will open in September (produced only once by KO in 1984), followed by Puccini's La Fanciulla Del West (The Girl of the Golden West) in November. This opera was commissioned and first performed by the Metropolitan Opera in 1910, starring Enrico Caruso. Fanciulla is set during California's Gold Rush, its heroine a Bible-reading saloon owner with a pot of gold who is trying to protect her outlaw lover. I'm in. (This leads me to imagine the operatic potential of Deadwood. The recipient of Swearingen's show-stopping aria is a head in a box. Someone get on that, please.)
An add-on production, A Woman in Morocco, from composer Daron Hagen will be staged in October ($25 for subscribers and $30 for individuals). This contemporary tragedy unfolds when a naive American travel writer confronts the reality of human trafficking. The season's finale is a classic American story, an adaptation of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. Composed by Andre Previn, this opera is being re-staged and re-orchestrated for smaller companies and will debut next February, as a co-production with San Francisco's Merola Opera and Opera Santa Barbara.
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Louisville Orchestra's 2014-2015 season marks the official beginning of the Teddy Abrams era as the new Music Director. At 26-years-old, Abrams is one of the youngest music directors in the country, but he is already a seasoned composer, conductor, and musician. He served as Assistant Conductor with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and was recently appointed Music Director and Conductor of the Britt Classical Festival in Jacksonville, Oregon for 2014. Abrams has selected programs that offer an eclectic mix of the classic and the new. "Although there isn’t a central theme for the season, each program is carefully constructed and bound by a defining element or concept. This allows us to celebrate the great, venerated repertoire that is already loved by our audiences while creating connections with music that is equally powerful but perhaps not as familiar," Abrams says.
The season will kick off in September with the Fanfara concert, which will feature an as-yet-unwritten composition by Abrams himself. Other highlights of future performances include exciting guest artists like soprano Storm Large to sing Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins in a program of modern composers, including Gershwin, Rodgers, and Copland; big symphonies from the greats -- Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mahler, and more; a newly commissioned piece by the young composer Sebastian Chang; and gems like Orff's Carmina Burana and Elgar's Enigma Variations.
Multiple subscription options are available and range from $103- $605. Call 502-587-8681
[Photo Credit: Sam English]
Watch Teddy Abrams' interview with the San Francisco Classical Voice: