Experience Central City Opera with an inside look at the festival’s history, performances, and people.
Central City Opera’s 2017 mainstage operas, Carmen and Cosí fan tutte, are classics, well-known pieces that are often performed by companies across the world. Alongside these famous works, however, Central City Opera allows you to experience lesser-known one act operas, hidden gems of the opera world that bring new stories, themes, and voices to our stage. This season will feature Benjamin Britten’s The Burning Fiery Furnace, Douglas Moore’s Gallantry, and Amy Beach’s Cabildo.
The Burning Fiery Furnace is the second of Benjamin Britten’s Church Parables. The stories of Britten’s Church Parables, Curlew River, The Burning Fiery Furnace, and The Prodigal Son, are based on Christian themes, but the musical inspiration of the pieces comes from Japanese Noh theatre. Britten was introduced to this ritualized, stylized form of theatre in 1955, when he and his partner Peter Pears embarked on a concert tour of Asia. His first parable in the set, Curlew River, is in fact adapted from the Japanese Noh play, Sumidagawa (Sumida River), a story about a and follows many Noh traditions with an all-male cast, sparse movement, and a small number of soloists supported by a chorus.
The Burning Fiery Furnace, the second of the Church Parables, varies slightly from this Noh format, although some of the influences remain. Rather than being based off a Noh play, The Burning Fiery Furnace draws from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, telling the story of Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Babylonians, and his persecution of the Jews. Like Curlew River, most of the roles are played by men, and the plot itself is rather simple. The Church Parables are not often performed and are frequently overshadowed by Britten’s larger operatic works such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Albert Herring, and Billy Budd, but they stand on their own as masterpieces of the great English composer.
Gallantry is another rarely performed work by a well-known composer. Douglas Moore is most famous in the opera world for his Colorado-based The Ballad of Baby Doe, which was originally commissioned by Central City Opera and premiered at the Central City Opera House in 1956. Much of Douglas Moore’s compositional body of work plays on themes of rural America, so Gallantry, an opera satire of soap operas, is a fun and humorous departure from his other operas.
Soap operas get their name from the soap commercials that were shown during commercial breaks and targeted the housewives that became the main audiences of these daytime dramas. Accordingly, Gallantry shifts focus between commercials for Lochinvar Soap, amongst other products, and a medical drama following the eminent surgeon Doctor Gregg and his attempts to woo his anesthetist Lola Markham. Soap operas also get their names from their melodrama that matches the melodrama featured in many operas, making opera the perfect medium to parody this beloved television form. The result is a funny and clever story paired with an impressive score.
While these one acts are surely not performed often enough, Amy Beach’s Cabildo will be celebrating its third professional production by a major company in the work’s history this summer at Central City. Composed in 1932, Cabildo has never been published, and was never performed during the composer’s lifetime. It follows the story of Pierre Lafitte, a pirate in New Orleans during the War of 1812, and his love for the lost Lady Valerie. Cabildo was Beach’s only foray into operatic repertoire, but her piano concertos, choral works, chamber music, and symphonies made her one of the few female composers of her time to achieve critical acclaim. Known as both an accomplished composer and pianist, Amy Beach was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and remains the only female composer inductee.
This summer, experience these operatic diamonds in the rough and get a taste of twentieth-century opera at Central City Opera – you won’t regret it!
The Burning Fiery Furnace will be performed in the Gilman Rehearsal Room at the Martin Foundry. It opens on Wednesday, July 26 and runs through Wednesday, August 2.
Gallantry will be performed in the Williams Stables Theater. It will be double-billed with Cabildo from Wednesday, July 26 through Wednesday, August 2, and will be performed as a solo one act on Thursday, August 3 and Friday, August 4.
Cabildo will be performed in the Williams Stables Theater. It will be double-billed with Gallantry from Wednesday, July 26 through Wednesday, August 2.
Library of Congress
Central City Opera’s 2017 Season Program