There seem to be to be much discussion about "relevancy" in the opera world right now. The standard classics of the repertoire are often given updated productions to make them more relevant. Subject matter for new works, commissions, workshops, and the like encourage relevancy. What exactly is relevant? What makes a production, a work, a subject matter or character relevant?
As I stopped to take a breather between larger works, I found that it's been a long time since I wrote any art song. From my earliest attempts at composing to where I am now, art song has always been central. So, in an effort to keep the creative fires burning—or, at least, smoldering—I decided to experiment a little.
It seems, in New York, at least, one of the first questions you're asked when meeting someone for the first time is "what do you do?" My stock response at the moment is "websites for money and music for love" and then see where the conversation goes from there. When it turns, as it does eventually, to composing opera, there's usually a moment of silence as my interlocutor processes this strange, strange answer. You can see it their eyes, the quizzical look of disbelief that someone in the 21st century writes opera.
"The reason we know so much, and in such detail, is rubbish." Thus writes P.J. Parsons in a brief account of the discovery of literary and historical treasures preserved in huge mounds of rubbish in the Egyptian desert. This rubbish brought to light previously lost ancient Greek texts. Excavation and examination continues to this day and hope remains for yet more lost texts to be brought to light again.
Why am I discussing this fascinating rubbish?
When embarking on something large, we're often given that sage, if cliche, advice. Having recently laid down on paper, finally, the first few lines a new libretto destined to be a grand opera, I find that I need to remind myself of this. Indeed, large endeavors always require a large perspective.