University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Doyle: Heresy

03/10/2019 1:00 pm
03/10/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday in the traditional church calendar, beginning the forty day penitential season of Lent: the time when good Catholics are supposed to devote themselves to fasting, prayer and the contemplation of the doctrines of the Faith. On the first Sunday of Lent, 2019 this program gets off entirely on the wrong foot with an opera (God forbid!) about heresy.

Irish electro-acoustic composer Roger Doyle (b. 1949) stumbled into the composition of his first and only opera Heresy (2013) because of a friend of his in the recording industry who had an independent label of his own called Heresy Records. Eric Fraad suggested the topic of heresy and Doyle picked out the name of a famous heretic, the Italian Renaissance intellectual Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). He was a pantheist at the wrong time in history. Bruno's concepts of the cosmos go beyond Copernicus to prefigure the understanding of the universe we have today through the science of astronomy. After a nine year-long heresy trial by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, he was burned at the stake, a martyr for the truth. The Irish literary genius James Joyce idolized Bruno and referred to him obliquely in Finnegan's Wake.

That Joyce connection gave Doyle the impetus to compose his electronic opera Heresy in 2013, with Bruno as its tragic hero. The official premiere of Heresy took place at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin in 2016 and it was broadcast the following year over Radio Ireland Lyric FM. The 2018 release of the opera on two Heresy Records CD's conflates the 2016 recorded production with tracks from a previous tryout staging in 2013. Doyle also thinks of Heresy as his 'Space Opera" because it ends in outer space.