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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Monday, May 18

Heggie Writes a Choral Opera

Synopsis

In Costa Mesa, California, on today’s date in 2014, the Pacific Chorale premiered a new choral opera. And what exactly is a “choral opera” you ask? Good question – and one that puzzled Jake Heggie as well, since he was the composer commissioned for that occasion.

Heggie and his librettist Gene Sheer at first scratched their heads. As Heggie put it, “Operas require action, characters, conflicts, journeys, transformation movement. Choirs stand still and make beautiful sound.”

They came up with a unique solution involving one character, Nora, a silent, on- stage actress, whose inner thoughts are sung by half of the choir, while the other half expresses the sounds and surroundings of the outside world Nora chooses to hear on a day in her life on which everything seems to go wrong – starting with a returned, unopened, handwritten letter she had sent, pouring out her heart, to her jerk of a boyfriend. Even Nora’s apartment furniture gets in a word or two about her unhappy state. And where does Nora turn for comfort? Why, to the radio of course – hence the titled of the new choral opera: “The Radio Hour.”

Spoiler alert: the opera ends on a hopeful note for poor Nora.

Music Played in Today's Program

Jake Heggie (b. 1961) The Radio Hour John Alexander Singers; Pacific Symphony members; John Alexander, cond. Delos 3484

Additional Information

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