Sunday, May 28, 2006

Operas we'd like to hear

Here's an illustration of one of the problems with classical music these days. The LA Opera is set to premiere a major new work by composer Elliot Goldenthal, Grendel, which is based on the Beowulf legend but is told from the point-of-view of the monster. Goldenthal is one of the finer voices to emerge from Hollywood film scoring over the last fifteen years. His is a very distinct voice, and he has a gift for orchestration that goes well beyond the traditional. Goldenthal loves to use unusual instruments in unusual combinations, and for a noted film composer to get an assignment such as this, where he's basically set free of the formal limitations of film scoring, is an exciting prospect.

Too bad it's likely to be years before I can hear this work, because due to union re-use fees it will simply be too expensive to record Grendel in the United States. So unless I can find a way to travel to a city where Grendel is staged in the future, I'm unlikely to get to hear this work until a recording surfaces. It would probably have to be recorded in Europe, which I suppose might be more likely since Grendel is a major new work being premiered by the opera company of one of America's largest cities, but how much other new music is never heard much because not only is it already not performed much by orchestras who are in thrall to "the standard repertoire", but also because union costs preclude recording?

The union cost issue is one I've run into a lot in the film music fandom community. Because the union rules require that musicians get paid for their work whenever recordings are issued, it's often the case that the revenues expected from releasing a film music recording are less than the union costs. This results in lots of film music never getting released. I hadn't realized that the union costs can harm the cause of the promulgation of new classical music as well.

(On a somewhat related note, I was surprised to read via Alex Ross that John Adams's famous opera Nixon in China has never been performed by either of New York City's major opera companies. That doesn't help the cause, either.)

1 comment:

Tosy And Cosh said...

Does Goldenthal do his own orchestrations, though? So many film composers don't.