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It seems to me that the only thing The New Yorker Festival’s Radical Opera panel settled last Sunday afternoon at City Winery was that nobody’s quite sure exactly what radical opera really is.
The 90 minute discussion featured director Peter Sellars — who’s so deeply involved with John Adams‘ operas that he’s not limited to directing in the most conventional sense. He helped create the libretto for Doctor Atomic — along with performer-composers Nico Muhly, Rufus Wainwright, and Lisa Bielawa. Nico and Lisa are closely associated with Philip Glass, one of the world’s leading composers of opera, while Rufus, who’s primarily a pop musician, has no prior formal connection to the opera world.
I was hoping that The New Yorkers’ brilliant music writer, Alex Ross, would encourage some spirited debate. (Secretly, I was hoping for some bitch-slapping, if not actual fisticuffs.) Alas, that was not to be. It turned into a very un-radical love-fest and discussion of upcoming projects. I had a livelier discussion with the young composer at my table than anything I heard coming from the stage that afternoon. Continue reading