I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Music Director, Joseph Hodge recently about The Faith Operas and being a part of new works. Here is some of what he had to say.
R - How did you first come in contact with composer David Wolfson and his music?
J - I first came into contact with David Wolfson's music when David submitted several of his operas to our New in November festival about three or four years ago. I remember listening to the submissions and thinking, "This guy gets it." We ended up choosing Rapture that year as part of the New in November festival, and we have gone on to perform Maya's Ark and A Fine Invention at subsequent New in November performances.
R- I've heard these four operas tell very compelling stories about faith. Please tell us about them and which is your favorite.
J - The subject matter is very interesting. A Fine Invention is about a married Christian Scientist couple who have a gravely-ill daughter and struggle with their faith as they search for an answer. Maya's Ark is the story of a girl in New Jersey who is trying to build an ark out of scrap lumber in a church parking lot. Rapture is about a mother and daughter as they await the impending Rapture, and Heaven's Gate takes place in the '90s where members of the Heaven's Gate cult are convinced that they will be given new bodies on a spaceship following the Hale-Bopp comet.
R - What do you find appealing about his music? Do you think audience members that are new to contemporary opera will enjoy these operas?
J - David's music has always struck me as very interesting to perform and to hear. It can often be difficult for composers to not sound like they're copying another composer from history; David has found his own voice and his music sounds original yet is also accessible. I think that someone new to contemporary opera--or even opera in general!--will enjoy these operas because of the interesting stories and characters and how the music enhances them.
R - You've performed a lot of contemporary music and worked with many composers in your career! What makes working with DW different?
J - I feel that David really gets writing for the voice, a skill that not many contemporary composers have honed or mastered. He creates singeable melodies that don't have too many awkward leaps or sit in a weird place for the voice, and his music can be challenging but is equally rewarding.
R - What is your favorite "musical moment" in The Faith Operas? (There might be more than one. Perhaps one moment from each opera? However you choose to answer is fine.)
J - There are so many good "musical moments" to choose from. I actually like how he employs silence (for example as we're waiting for the Rapture to come and time seems to freeze). Then, there is a moment in Maya's Ark where the Reverand has a change of heart and decides to help Maya build the ark, and we hear some of the most tender music of the opera.
R - Tell us about the orchestration for The Faith Operas! I hear you will be using a chamber ensemble.
J - We will be using a piano trio for these operas, which means a piano, violin, and cello. Having different instruments really makes the music come to life.
R - Tell us about the cast of The Faith Operas! Any singers making their Hartford Opera debut?
J - This year we will feature singers Julie DeVaere, Lisabeth Miller, Tony Leathem, and Gregory Zavracky. I believe Greg, an amazing tenor, is the only one making his debut, but the entire cast is a joy to work with!
R - Have you and director, Kristy Chambrelli discussed your vision for the pieces? You've worked together on so many occasions! Do you always agree?
J - We have worked together quite a bit, haven't we?? The great thing about Kristy is that we're always on the same page. She comes up with the coolest ideas and concepts, and she has a way of always bringing out the best in all of her actors. Working with her is easy! We have started to form our vision of the pieces, but a lot of it happens organically once the rehearsal process begins.
R - What would you say to the "opera neophyte" who is on the fence about attending?
J - I would say COME! Even if you're not sure, give it a try--it'll be an evening full of wonderful music-making. Also be sure to check out our production of The Tender Land in June!