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December 13   -   Iron Tongue of Midnight

Nominees and the Folly of It All

A friend asked me last year about the five greatest operas written in the last 50 years. Well, in some sense it's folly to even try; on the other hand, it's an entertaining questions to ask. Here's the big problem with this enterprise, though: Thierry Vagne's attempt at a comprehensive list of all postwar operas is...enormous. I asked on my blog, I asked on Twitter (more than once), and a fair number of people played. I didn't ask anyone to give me their criteria for "greatest," and that was a mistake, because in some of these cases, I'd really like to know. I mean, for my taste, Dead Man Walking got a shocking number of nominations, and I have never thought it very good, suffering from ostinatoitis and a general lack of memorable music. Anyway, here is the list of nominees from 2015, with apologies for taking a year to post it: Corigliano, Ghosts of VersaillesHeggie, Dead Man WalkingLigeti, Le Grand MacabreGlass, SatyagrahaAdams, Nixon in ChinaBenjamin, Written on SkinCatan, Florencia en el Amazonas Puts, Silent Night Heggie, Moby DickRautavaara, RasputinEscaich, ClaudeSaariaho, L'Amour de LoinDean, BlissChin, Alice in WonderlandAdesThe TempestPowder Her FaceMessiaen, St. FrancoisGolijov, AindanamarAdams, Nixon in ChinaBirtwistle GawainMask of OrpheusGlass, Einstein on the BeachLigeti, Le Grand MacabreBerg, Three-Act Lulu (YES I KNOW THIS IS CHEATING)Stockhausen, MitwochHenze, The BassaridsNono, Al gran sole carico d'amoreBrittenThe Burning Fiery FurnaceThe Prodigal SonDeath in VeniceI'm fascinated that the three composers more than one of whose operas was nominated are all English. My own favorites of Britten's operas, The Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Peter Grimes, don't make the 50 year cut. My candidates, which were echoed by many others, were St. Francois, Nixon in China, Einstein on the Beach, Gawain, and Le Grand Macabre. Note that I limited my nominees to those operas I've actually seen.


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