'Life is a Dream' premieres
Lewis Spratlan's "mystical, challenging and viscerally dramatic opera" receives its long-awaited premiere at Santa Fe Opera.
Life is a Dream
- World premiere July 24, 2010 – Santa Fe Opera
additional performances July 28, August 6, 12, 19
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times (July 25 2010)
Thanks to Charles MacKay, the general director of the Santa Fe Opera, it is finally possible to experience this mystical, challenging and viscerally dramatic opera, which had such a torturous path to production....
When we first meet Segismundo, dressed in rags and chained to his tower, he sings a fitful and tormented soliloquy. The role calls for a heroic tenor, and this production has one in the young, athletic Roger Honeywell, who brought burnished sound and crisp diction to the sweeping vocal lines, full of leaps and dips....
© Ken Howard, Santa Fe OperaThis production, directed by Kevin Newbury, has a timeless, placeless aura. The costumes by Jessica Jahn could be lifted from fairy-tale-book illustrations, with exotic touches. But David Korins went for a Jules Verne look in his abstract set, dominated by a matrix of lighted poles that descend from the walls and intersect....
Mr. Spratlan cited Mozart as a model of writing music that defines character, something Mr. Spratlan does distinctively in Life Is a Dream....
Life Is a Dream is alive with pastiche. When we first enter the king’s court, as a nod to the Polish setting, Mr. Spratlan drives the scene with a rattling and infectious polonaise dance. And when Basilio tells his subjects of his plan to test his son, he leads the chorus and orchestra in an industrious fugue, full of resolve and intertwining counterpoint....
Life Is a Dream is an important opera, the rare philosophical work that holds the stage and gives singing actors real characters to grapple with. The cast, crew and especially the elated Mr. Spratlan basked in the ovation.
James M. Keller, The New Mexican (July 25 2010)
© Ken Howard, Santa Fe OperaFrom a musical standpoint, Life Is a Dream is an imposing accomplishment, the more so in light of the bland pablum that has so often been tendered in stage works of more recent vintage....
Production standards are high. Director Kevin Newbury disposes the characters clearly and creates painterly stage assemblies....
Mr. Spratlan must feel grateful that his work has finally received not merely an airing, but one of this quality.
Kyle MacMillan, Denver Post (August 1 2010)
Life Is a Dream is a powerful, profound drama grand opera in the fullest sense of the term.
It's true that its running time is comparatively modest a little less than 2 1/2 hours and it does not contain the big action scenes that enliven some works in the form, but it traverses vast psychological and thematic territory....
As prickly as it can be at times, the orchestral score is utterly compelling complex, evocative and other-worldly. Yes, it is atonal, eclectic, at times a mysterious soundscape of sharp-edged discordance, disparate percussion and piercing strings.
But in many ways the music transcends atonality because Spratlan inserts a host of other influences and elements from past and present, including a brass fanfare, polonaise and even a kind of street band.
...Life Is a Dream holds the promise of an extraordinary dramatic and musical journey that more companies will surely want to take.
SFO persists to take risks, thanks to its new-music policy
John Stege, The Santa Fe Reporter (July 28 2010)
The SFO's deluxe new-opera scenic treatment features designer David Korins's massive illuminated pylons that figure and reconfigure menacingly to define the drama's mechanistic universe. Jessica Jahn's russet, ruddy costumes come straight from a courtly fairy tale. And inventive director Kevin Newbury delivers supple stage movement that often belies the action's essentially static nature.
Charles Warren, The Berkshire Review (August 5 2010)
The musical style is schooled in Berg and Bartók (and late Beethoven), and sometimes makes one think of Ligeti. But, yes, American. There is an integrity in the interest of expression, a freedom with musical styles, an eclecticism, in the spirit of Charles Ives. There is an agonistic quality with flashes of transcendence like the poetry of Hart Crane. And the central emotional and philosophical obsession of the piece, focused in its protagonist, is no better word for it Mellvillean.
Kevin Newbury's direction is really beyond praise. He and his cast of singing actors believe in every word and note of this piece, and Newbury has drawn from everybody their best. He keeps everybody moving and circulating, churning and re-positioning, and they carry it off with aplomb. This is a confusing and dynamic world. The orchestra score is hard, especially as something new, and the musicians here play it admirably, also with unmistakable belief in what they are doing. Conductor Leonard Slatkin must take credit he was on top of this. The first performance was stunning and overpowering. The second performance was at once tighter and more relaxed, more colorful and varied, for orchestra and singers.
New Mexico has been a great and appropriate place to premiere this opera, but it needs to be seen everywhere.