Monday, April 5, 2010

AMELIA Frequently Asked Questions

What’s Amelia about?
Amelia is about flight, and it’s about war, and it’s about family and love. Watch this blog the next few days to learn more!

Is it an opera about Amelia Earhart?
No. Kate Lindsey plays Amelia, an American woman whose father named her after Amelia Earhart. Amelia (the opera character) loses her father when she’s a little girl. Her father, Dodge, played by William Burden, is a US navy pilot, MIA in Vietnam; he vanishes without a trace as did the real-life Amelia Earhart. So when she grows up, Amelia (the opera character) has an understandably complicated relationship to her namesake; when she herself is uncertain, she dreams of the terror and excitement experienced by a 1930s female pilot, known as The Flier (played by Jennifer Zetlan), a projection of herself onto the real-life Earhart.

Is it an opera about the Vietnam War?
Not exactly. Certainly the opera has no political agenda; instead, it explores the impact that war in general has upon families. Amelia looks at the Vietnam War from the perspective of someone who lived through it as a small child, lost the most important person in her life to the war, and is searching for ways to heal the scar now that she is older.

Where did the story of the opera come from?
It’s original. Although most operas (including Falstaff, Il trovatore, and La traviata, not to mention other contemporary American operas including Moby-Dick, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter) take their stories from pre-existing sources, the story of Amelia was created by Daron Hagen, Gardner McFall, and Stephen Wadsworth. Part of the inspiration comes from the real-life experience of Gardner McFall, who wrote the libretto after writing a collection of poems called The Pilot’s Daughter: McFall was a little girl when her own father, who was in fact a US navy pilot named Dodge, was lost over the Pacific during the Vietnam War.

What will the music sound like?
Hagen writes lyrical vocal music which showcases both the emotions felt by the characters and the beauty of the singers’ voices; Amelia features an orchestra of 45, including a colorful percussion section. His harmonic language varies depending on the needs of the drama, from reassuringly tonal to more complicated and chromatic. Structurally, Amelia uses the best principles from both the Italian and the German opera traditions: it’s full of emotion-packed arias and ensembles, like an Italian opera, but the entire piece is built from a core vocabulary of musical ideas, terms, phrases, and images, as are the great German operas.

How can I listen to a recording? You can’t! The opera hasn’t yet been played! At you can hear vocal excerpts, with piano accompaniment, recorded at a workshop in May of 2008. Samples of Daron Hagen’s other music are available at his blog, and you can buy a recording of his opera Shining Brow here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Jon!!!!
    for an excellent explanation of the genesis and content of "Amelia"!!!! Sounds like something I would eventually like to attend, though not this season, as duties over here preclude that.
    Hopefully, it, like Riemann's "Lear", will find its place in the repertories of opera houses in Germany!!
    Win H.