Monday, August 04, 2008

Tragic News about An American Tragedy

The librettist Gene Scheer and composer Tobias Picker have reworked the first act of An American Tragedy, particularly Sondra's "New York aria". In the August, 2008, edition of Opera News, Brian Kellow said, the aria was "overlong and static at the premiere when it was sung by SUSAN GRAHAM," and further reports that it has been transformed into a trio. Did he not see the performance that I did? As a matter of fact, that aria is why I went back to see the opera twice more and still wish I could see it again. Well, it's definitely NOT the only reason. But, I cannot imagine this aria as a trio. How could they possibly make it better? To me, the aria speaks volumes about who Sondra is. We learn who she is - not just a rich and privileged girl - but a young woman who seeks independence and self-actualization. Her world is expanded by the beauty that is New York, through attending performances and being allowed independence. By the time she meets the hunky stranger Clyde, she's not just the bubble headed socialite rebelling. Will making it a trio diminish the character of Sondra? I wonder if we'll even get another chance in New York to see it. Fortunately, it's not all tragic news about An American Tragedy. At least Scheer is "guardedly optimistic about future performances." The Met commissioned An American Tragedy as a new work in 2005. One of the principal singers from the 2005 premier cast told me that it was due to be revived in the 07/08 season, albeit without Susan Graham, but the Met chose to revive its overly expensive, yet disappointing (at least to me) The First Emperor instead. Perhaps City Opera would pick it up for a future season if the Met chooses not to revive it (at least it is not predicted for future seasons according to Brad Wilber's Future Seasons at the Met). Needless to say, even with a change to Sondra's New York aria, I would see it again no matter where it plays.

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