Photo © Magali Dougados 

The Importance of Being Earnest

by Gerald Barry, produced by Nouvel Opéra Fribourg 2019

This is a representation of my personal thoughts on performing and preparing this production. I have not articulated so much as of yet and am not sure what I will write about, but surely it will be a combination of wit and thoughtfullness on both Gerald Barry and Oscar Wilde.

Progressively, public interest in art song recitals has declined. Apart from educational institutions, the classical arts have been largely dependent upon the support of government money and corporate donations. Because of this, it does not live in the same realm as the entertainment industry, whose evolution is predicated on audience tastes, and therefore has not been subjected to the natural laws of supply and demand. This is largely why there has been very little evolution of art song performance practice. Modern audiences crave variety and multifaceted performance. Opera and Shakespeare continually reinvent themselves. If the art remains the same while only the presentation evolves, why not also apply this to art song recital? It is necessary for artists to investigate new and different approaches to music presentation and organization in a way that while still preserving the integrity of the music, challenges the audience to think in a way that relates to the time we live in. In doing so, this will enhance and enrich the performer’s relationship to an audience, as well as increase depth in their own artistic self. The implementation of a visual aesthetic into art song performance provides a new layer of experience for performers and an audience. The intention in creating these recitals is to break away from traditional convention to engage the audience in an artful and progressive way, in an effort to help this genre of classical music evolve.

Director: Julien Chavaz
Conductor: Jérôme Kuhn
Nouvel Opéra Fribourg & Athénée Théâtre Louis-Jouvet
Cast: Timur (Jack), Ed Ballad (Algernon), Alison Scherzer (Cecily), Nina van Essen (Gwendolyn), Graeme Danby (Lady Bracknell), Jessica Walker (Miss Prism), Vincent Casagrande (Lane/Merriman), Steven Beard (Dr. Chausible)

Paris performance available now to stream online at Operavision

Press

"La soprano américaine Alison Scherzer prête d'insolents aigus à Cecily…"
Philippe Venturini, Les Échos

"...et l'étonnante soprano Alison Scherzer aux audacieux suraigus."
Romaric Gregorian, Classica

"...et la soprano Alison Scherzer négocie sans complexe les vocalises aèriennes de Cecily."
Michel Parouty, Opéra Magazine

"Du strict point de vue du chant, on distinguera les très belles interprétations d’Ed Ballard (Algernon) et Alison Scherzer (Cecily)."
Laurent Vilaram, Crescendo Magazine

"On relève particulièrement le lyrisme décuplé par le chant de la soprano Alison Scherzer…"
Alain Cochard, Concertclassic.com

"Du côté des jeunes filles, on est bluffé par les suraigus que l’Américaine Alison Scherzer émet avec une facilité déconcertante et sans la moindre aigreur…"
Laurent Bury, Forumopera.com

"...während Alison Scherzer mit ihrem fein dosierten Sopran Cecily Jugendlichkeit und eine gewisse Naivität verleiht."
Sandro Sprecher, Freiburger Nachrichten

"Mais la virtuosité des chanteurs (en particulier celle du ténor Timur et de la soprano Alison Scherzer), leur légèreté vocale, leur capacité à assumer les aigus, fascinent."
La Liberté

Progressively, public interest in art song recitals has declined. Apart from educational institutions, the classical arts have been largely dependent upon the support of government money and corporate donations. Because of this, it does not live in the same realm as the entertainment industry, whose evolution is predicated on audience tastes, and therefore has not been subjected to the natural laws of supply and demand. This is largely why there has been very little evolution of art song performance practice. Modern audiences crave variety and multifaceted performance. Opera and Shakespeare continually reinvent themselves. If the art remains the same while only the presentation evolves, why not also apply this to art song recital? It is necessary for artists to investigate new and different approaches to music presentation and organization in a way that while still preserving the integrity of the music, challenges the audience to think in a way that relates to the time we live in. In doing so, this will enhance and enrich the performer’s relationship to an audience, as well as increase depth in their own artistic self. The implementation of a visual aesthetic into art song performance provides a new layer of experience for performers and an audience. The intention in creating these recitals is to break away from traditional convention to engage the audience in an artful and progressive way, in an effort to help this genre of classical music evolve.

The above paragraph concludes a thesis in fulfillment of a post-graduate Artist Diploma at the University of Cincinnati - College Conservatory of Music. The project was meant as an experiment in performance practice by incorporating different art forms into contemporary art song recital. I experimented with spoken word, mixed media, surtitle projections, live abstract drawing, staging and Puppet Theater in recitals as they related to a specific programmatic theme. Augenmusik is a term that refers to the unique graphic features on a musical score, designed by composers to convey a symbolic meaning or riddle to performers, but that is not ordinarily visible to an audience. I had entitled this project Augenmusik in an effort to expand the concept of the term to refer to not only a notational practice, but also to a visual experience of a musical work within the context of a performance.

Links

Gerald Barry – Interview with Final Note Magazine
Gerald Barry talks about his process, what shaped his style and his upcoming production of The Intelligence Park with The Royal Opera House.
Réjouissant nonsense lyrique à l’Athénée
En adaptant « The Importance of Being Earnest » d’Oscar Wilde, le compositeur irlandais Gerald Barry signe un opéra d’une irrésistible drôlerie. La mise en scène astucieuse de Julien Chavaz et une jeune troupe de musiciens et chanteurs en restituent sur un rythme trépidant l’humour ravageur.
L’inconstance d’être important | Forum Opéra
Ah, quel bonheur de voir une nouvelle fois confirmé que la musique contemporaine n’est pas imperméable à l’humour, et qu’il est possible de composer aujourd’hui des œuvres lyriques sur autre chose que des livrets abscons et sinistres ! Gerald Barry l’a prouvé avec son opéra d’après Oscar Wilde, créé…
Un irrésistible opéra de Gerald Barry au Théâtre de l’Athénée
Gerald Barry est un compositeur célèbre en Grande Bretagne. Après Nancy en 2013, le Théâtre de l’Athénée présentait une version scénique du cinquièm
Auch mit Tellern lässt sich Musik machen
Aus kräftigen, dissonanten Klavierakkorden schält sich langsam die Melodie eines bekannten Volkslieds heraus.
Un opéra explosif et jouissif
CritiqueIl y avait là un immense potentiel de bonheur scénique, de jeu, de chant. Julien Chavaz a...