The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The new opera “Heart of a Soldier” seems a major 9/11 masterpiece – or does it?

September 25, 2011
9 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

When does commemorative music transcend the occasion it commemorates?

It is a timely question on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Even more than works by John Adams and Steve Reich, composer Christopher Theofanidis’ new opera “Heart of a Solder” seems to have all the makings of a masterpiece about 9/11.

It is based on the best-selling non-fiction book by James B. Stewart. It has a deeply appealing hero-protagonist. And it covers conflicts from Vietnam to 9/11.

In case you missed them, just listen to and read some of these advance stories:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2137433456

http://www.npr.org/2011/09/10/140336330/-heart-of-a-soldier-an-opera-at-the-heart-of-9-11

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2011/09/11/140332812/sept-11-on-the-opera-stage-christopher-theofanidis-heart-of-a-soldier

But then came the world premiere performances – with baritone Thomas Hampson (below) in the title role — in San Francisco, and the reviews that strike me as tepid and disappointing, or at least disappointed, for the most part.

On the other hand, this wouldn’t be the first time a work that is initially panned turns out to have longer legs and more lasting value or staying power. Can you say Bach? Mozart? Beethoven? Mahler?

Here are some of the reviews:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/09/opera-review-heart-of-a-soldier.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/12/arts/music/heart-of-a-soldier-at-san-francisco-opera-review.html

http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment/ci_18873426

http://articles.sfgate.com/2011-09-12/entertainment/30144116_1_love-stories-heroic-tale-soldier

http://theclassicalreview.com/2011/09/heart-of-a-soldier-a-flawed-yet-moving-and-powerful-portrait-of-one-911-hero/

Did you see or hear “Heart of a Soldier”?

What do you think? Is it powerful, but flawed? A flop? Or is it a masterpiece sure to be restaged in the future?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

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