Issue 22: Contemporary Opera

N.B. Brett Dean’s interview will be published at a slightly later date.

Back in 2016-17 I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to watch a workshop and rehearsal for Brett Dean’s opera Hamlet at Glyndebourne Opera House, UK. The world premiere was conducted by Vladimir Jurowski and the cast included Allan Clayton in the title role, Barbara Hannigan as Ophelia and Dame Sarah Connolly as Gertrude. Truly the dream team. The opera has since gone on to become something of a phenomenon, touring the UK, being presented at the 2018 Adelaide Festival and most recently at the Met in New York (conducted by Nicholas Carter in his Met debut). Before shifting to composition, Brett was a violist in the Berlin Philharmonic, playing with conductors such as Karajan, Abbado and Rattle (he is also a conductor himself). The conversation transcribed is one we had back in 2016 when he was writing the opera.

Little Women was composer Mark Adamo’s first opera, written back in 1998. It has since been staged many times in the United States, but this year Opera Holland Park, London staged the UK premiere. Scott Wilson was the Associate Conductor and Chorus Master, working alongside his former teacher Sian Edwards. Scott spoke to me in great depth about this unique piece, his preparation, his work coaching the singers and leading the musicians, as well as the unique challenges posed by the canopied open-air auditorium. This is Scott’s third appearance in Notes – he is a great supporter of the project and a firm favourite to speak with about a great variety of topics.

And finally, many thanks to Dr Thomas Taylor Dickey, Director of Orchestral Studies at Oklahoma State University, for his article ‘Progress, Not Perfection: Practical Ways of Integrating DEI into Student Orchestra Programs’. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a hot topic across the arts in recent years, and something orchestras at all levels, and their conductors, are needing to continually reconsider and reassess. In this article Thomas makes numerous practical, workable suggestions on to how to get the ball rolling with issues such as gender-inclusive language and clothing, safe zones, good educational resources, and building a more inclusive repertoire.

As ever, huge thanks to Brett, Scott and Thomas for their contributions.

Dr Hannah Baxter