The appalled opera goers make claims about wasted money and travel time, and they take a strange stance of half-defending, half-blaming the performers onstage. But the main objections seem to be the apparent "desecration" of Wagner's work. "Yes, I naively assumed that Wagner’s family had obeyed his very exacting wishes, and that Bayreuth was the place to see his operas as he intended them," writes Peacock.
"I appreciated that we weren't the focus of the project; we were the vessel for it. Everything in the experience was about making the art better and it was our job to the best performance possible. In any opera, the music comes from the libretto and every note means something. To have that be the full focus of the project meant that was a different musical experience for me."
Panels don't often offer feedback to candidates: it's time-consuming and usually difficult to successfully administrate in the aftermath of a set of auditions. So here's a general note I wish I could send to everyone who auditions for me:
We can do better. We can espouse and proclaim the value of vocal health, technique, and efficiency, while recognizing with great respect and awe the beauty in non-traditional voices, and overcoming the professional and territorial myopia that threatens to rob us of our innate desire to hear the gift of a great voice raised in song.
From the perspective of my relatively secure, European composer bubble, the amount of exposure I received between the announcement of, and participation in, Frontiers bordered on empowering and overwhelming, with a dash of terror for good measure. The response I received from audiences, colleagues, and the staff of Fort Worth Opera affirmed my Brand — "I am becoming a better opera composer" — for the foreseeable future.
I've always been amazed how the rehearsal process produces in me a higher awareness of what I have written. To think that I know every motivation behind every note and gesture is, for me, conceit. I need another's inquiries to drag out the nuggets of meaning and all the things I didn't know I knew about the piece.
I could easily represent myself as a safe choice, saying, in effect, "I'm not going to be a problem for you. I’m not one of those crazy egocentric composers who is going to make ridiculous demands and make you sorry you wanted to work with me." I can assuage these preconceptions with a picture that pretty much sums me up: "I'm normal! I'm a nice guy! I'm wearing tweed, for God's sake!"
I can a) quit doing this thing I love and just sit in a corner, or, b) do a diffident, guarded, joyless job of it because I'm hyper-aware of their negative opinions, and making room for their big important opinions is more important to me than my own fulfilment and mental health. (The latter is my default — that's where I'm most likely to go when the self-doubt gets to me.)
I soon learned that cold-shopping an out-of-the-box stage work is a thorny, if not downright impossible, proposition. In the autumn of 2015, I reached out to roughly 200 small- to medium-sized American opera companies. In a 100-word email, I introduced myself and asked for a five-to-ten-minute phone conversation about trends in the commissioning and production of new opera (a subject that obviously interested me but was benign enough for an initial discussion).
Oftentimes, the singers who spend most - or all - of their time singing the tragic operas by Puccini, Verdi, maybe a bit of Donizetti and Gounod, tend to have acting skills that are less well-honed. That's in comparison to singers who perform a lot of new opera, Baroque opera, and subtler stuff by the likes of Britten, Janáček, Shostakovich, and even Wagner and Strauss.