News from May

Minnesota Opera is going ahead with their webcast (actually two) of The Giver. Here is their news release about it – and here is the site.

Friday May 18 at 7 pm EST and May 24 at 1 pm EST (for classrooms)
Evidently they put in some of the pre-show talk Lois and I did from the stage, at least they told me they were going to. The mostly-youth and the all-young-people cast did a really swell job with a “complex and challenging score”, and when they sold out and had a lengthy waiting list for tickets, they decided to do the webcast. Bravo MinnOp!


There has been a great deal of activity in the media since Minnesota Opera’s sold out performances at the end of April. The first article to appear was Olivia Giovetti’s Operavore blog on WQXR on April 27 prior to the performances:

Young Adult Fiction Goes Dystopian, Opera Follows Suit
“It’s in this sense that The Giver may be one of those “perfect” operas in theory, and could signify an interesting course for contemporary opera. The drama and conflict are there, with some scenes begging to be sung for their cathartic depth and emotional peaks. But, more importantly, it’s one of those stories that transcends region and time. It’s still taught in schools and lapped up by students in a way where classic dystopian literature like Brave New World and Animal Farm occasionally fall flat. It is, for a young generation, the type of work that resonates as firmly and profoundly in the 21st century as Greek legend and drama did for denizens of the 17th century. And, really, is there all that much separating young Jonas from Orpheus?”

Read the entire article here.

Susannah Schouweiler
A “remarkable new work… Kander’s adaptation ably tackles the philosophical complexities of Lowry’s Newbery Award-winning dystopian story set in the not-too-distant future. In a particularly clever stroke, Kander briskly handles the novel’s expository details and narrative movement by means of a Greek-style chorus; her instrumental scoring is atmospheric and unobtrusive, and the production’s chamber orchestra performed them sensitively. But the vocals take priority. … this isn’t really an opera driven by grand arias or scenery-chewing relationship melodrama – the ensemble is primary, as fits a tale centered on “the Community.” This adaptation is a sophisticated and subtle work, in terms of both music and story. Like Lowry’s novel, it never panders.”

Read the entire review here.

Minnesota Opera invited several young journalists to the final dress rehearsal with the proviso that they could blog about the show, but not write a proper review. Here are excerpts:

Twin Cities Daily Planet
April 30, 2012
“Just about 20 years ago when Lois Lowry’s The Giver was published, there was no “dystopian rage.” Today, when The Hunger Games trilogy is taking today’s youth by storm and the movie is grossing a gross amount of money in the box office, I still stand by The Giver. …” MORGAN HALASKA

“My English teacher in 7th grade read The Giver out loud to us and I remember being enraptured in the story. Middle school was, as I’m sure it is for almost everyone, a tumultuous time. The Giver reflects the angst of Jonas, who doesn’t know his place in the world. And, in all honesty, I feel like I can still relate; I’m still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. The tale is not a feel-good by any means, but for some reason that’s exactly how it made me feel. Knowing that what you’re going through isn’t unique is comforting, and that the alternative to “sameness” is preferable; even if it means experiencing pain….The production made me feel excited about the book again like I did in 7th grade.” LAUREN VAN SCHEPEN

Read the entire review here.

A Journal of Creative Things
Thomas Boguszewski
The Giver was already completely sold out by the time we saw the dress rehearsal. If that weren’t the case, I’d be urging everyone to go see it … I’m confident that this opera will keep playing…. because it’s good enough to last. Keep your eyes peeled for it in the future.

His whole article, plus his nifty drawings can be seen here.

Gimme Gimme Gimme
Minnesota Daily – U. of Minneapolis/St. Paul
By Griffin Fillipitch
It is odd that, instead of film or comic, opera is the medium that an adaptation of “The Giver” would take. But that is what happened last weekend at the Minnesota Opera, thanks to composer Susan Kander and a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $20,000.

“It’s one of the first stories that children encounter that doesn’t talk down to them. It talks up to them,” Kander said. “It really is not kid fare.”

She approached the music with that in mind and subsequently produced a modern and complex soundtrack to the story of Jonas.… [T]he music was not just challenging for the sake of being challenging. At times, the dissonant and choppy [music] was truly fascinating and always matched the eerie and intense emotion of the source material.

Read the entire review here.

A Garden’s Time Piece
On May 4, two marvelous musicians, Lauren Rausch, violin and Danielle Buoniauto, soprano, gave a shimmering performance of this new piece at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. The 12 minute work had premiered in St. Louis but I had never been in a room with it before. I don’t think I’ve ever sat through a performance of one of my own pieces with such a helpless grin on my face from beginning to end. I am grateful to Lauren and Danielle for treating me to such an exquisite experience.

Postcards from America
The CD on which this piece for oboe and piano appears, Overheard by Michele Fiala, has received a number of very nice reviews:

Fanfare Magazine, May/June 2012
Susan Kander is a composer who likes to tell a story. Here, she has a narrator read a few lines before each movement of her Postcards from America: “Greetings from the Empire State Building,” “Greetings from the Statue of Liberty,” and “Greetings from the Brooklyn Bridge.” The postcards are from a man who has left his family to find work in the United States. Although he tries to hide his loneliness and desperation with his words, Michele Fiala’s oboe and Donald Speer’s piano tell the whole tale in a most effective manner.

BBC Music Magazine
Susan Kander’s piece for oboe and piano is “a poignant narration of the immigrant experience.”