Composers Datebook®

Bolcom's "View" on choral matters

William Bolcom (b. 1938) — A View from the Bridge (Lyric Opera of Chicago; Dennis Russell Davies, cond.) New World 80558


Composer's Datebook - October 9, 2021

2:00


October 09, 2021

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1999, the Lyric Opera of Chicago premiered a new opera by the American composer William Bolcom, based on “A View from the Bridge,” a powerful play by Arthur Miller.

Now, not all stage plays “translate” well into opera, as Bolcom was well aware: “In theater, you have the text and then below it you have the subtext,” said Bolcom. “In opera it is pretty much the opposite, the subtext is what you are really dealing with first and foremost: big, raw emotions, which are supported by the text.

In fact, Miller’s play, although set in Brooklyn in the 1950s, has often been likened to a Greek tragedy, a theatrical form in which the chorus plays an important role.

Bolcom saw that as a real opportunity: "If you are going to do an opera from a play, it better have a dimension that the play doesn't. In a play, you can't have your chorus speak because it is financially prohibitive: as soon as the chorus opens up its mouth the price goes up because of actors’ equity. So, naturally one of the great resources of opera houses is an opera chorus, a resource you CAN use much more easily."

Music Played in Today's Program

William Bolcom (b. 1938) — A View from the Bridge (Lyric Opera of Chicago; Dennis Russell Davies, cond.) New World 80558

On This Day

Births

  • 1585 - Baptismal date of German composer Heinrich Schütz, in Bad Löstritz;

  • 1835 - French composer, conductor and pianist Camille Saint-Saëns, in Paris;

  • 1914 - American composer Roger Goeb, in Cherokee, Iowa;

  • 1938 - Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, in Helsinki;

  • 1940 - John Lennon (of the Beatles), in Liverpool, England;

Deaths

  • 1999 - Jazz vibraphone virtuoso, Milt Jackson, age 76, in New York City; He was a member of the famous Modern Jazz Quartet;

Premieres

  • 1826 - Rossini: opera, "The Siege of Corinth," at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1891 - Dvorák: "Requiem," Op. 89, in Birmingham, England;

  • 1896 - Dvorák: String Quartet No. 13 in G, Op. 106, in Prague, by the Bohemian Quartet;

  • 1921 - Janácek: "Taras Bulba" (after Gogol), in Brno;

  • 1955 - Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1, by the Leningrad Philharmonic conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky, with David Oistrakh the soloist;

  • 1963 - Henze: Symphony No. 4 in Berlin, with the composer conducting;

  • 1980 - Jon Deak: Concerto for Oboe d'amore and Orchestra, by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta with Thomas Stacy as soloist;

  • 1985 - Anthony Davis: opera "X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X," in Philadelphia; The opera's New York City Opera premiere occurred the following year on September 28, 1986;

  • 1986 - Andrew Lloyd-Webber: musical "Phantom of the Opera," at Her Majesty's Theatre in London; The musical opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theater on January 26, 1988;

  • 1987 - Corigliano: "Campane di Ravello" (Bells of Ravello) for orchestra (a birthday tribute to Sir Georg Solti), in Chicago, with Kenneth Jean conducting;

  • 1992 - David Ott: Symphony No. 3, by the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Symphony, Catherine Comet conducting;

  • 1997 - Robert X. Rodriguez: "Il Lamento di Tristano," by flutist Susan Morris De Jong and guitarist Jeffrey Van, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis;

  • 1999 - Bolcom: opera "A View From the Bridge," by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dennis Russell Davies, cond.

  • 1999 - Michael Torke: symphonic oratorio "Four Seasons," at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, by soloists, chorus, and the New York Philharmonic, Kurt Masur conducting;

Others

  • 1973 - Leonard Bernstein gives the first of six lectures entitled "The Unanswered Question," as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University.