University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Trueman: Olagon; Fussell: Cymbeline

02/17/2019 1:00 pm
02/17/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This Sunday I offer you two lyric theater pieces of the twenty first century. First comes Dan Trueman's Olagon: A Cantata in Doublespeak. Essentially this is a modern retelling of the ancient Irish epic poem the Tain Bo Cuiailnge or "The Cattle Raid of Cooley," as translated and interpreted by the contemporary Irish poet Paul Muldoon. The "doublespeak" element in this cantata refers to what is called "macaronic verse," a practice of mixing languages going back to the Middle Ages. One notable example of this is the mixing of the vernacular and Latin in the Carmina Burana that Orff set to music. In Olagon it's modern English and ancient Irish that gets chopped up. Dan Trueman is an American composer and fiddler who accompanies the Irish vocalist Iarla O Lionaird. Additional vocals are provided by Trueman and the six members of the Eighth Blackbird ensemble, who are all accomplished instrumentalists. Eighth Blackbird is an American outfit, and Olagon was given its world premiere recording stateside at Princeton University in 2015. The Chicago-based label Cedille issued Olagon on two compact discs in 2017.

American composer Charles Fussell (b. 1938) has been part of the Boston area's musical life for a couple of decades. Among his many talents and capacities he's a composer for the lyric stage. A recording of his chamber opera The Astronaut's Tale (1996) went over the air on this program on Sunday, September 2, 2012. Fussell is but one of a long line of composers to be inspired by the plays of William Shakespeare. He fashioned another chamber opera after Shakespeare's Cymbelline (1611). Fussell wrote, "The idea of a musical depiction of this work came as a result of seeing the Hartford Stage productions of Shakespeare. Their Cymbelline, directed by Mark Lamos (who later moved to opera)... touched me deeply..." Fussell's Cymbelline received its world premiere recording in 2016 in the studio of Futura Productions in Roslindale, Massachusetts. The three vocal soloists are joined by an ensemble of ten instrumentalists drawn from the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, directed by Gil Rose. The recording comes to us on a single BMOP Sound compact disc.