Great Opera has remained popular for many years, spanning the centuries from its early beginnings to present-day productions. Jacopo Peri’s Dafne is often thought of as the first-ever opera, performed in 1598. But what do we call opera that has been written more recently? There are a few terms that are used: modern, contemporary, and new.
Though we are in the 21st Century, pieces that were written after 1945 are still considered to be contemporary pieces when we discuss the modern age of Opera. Probably because our current century is only 21 years old and opera continued to evolve after the impact of recording technology, the World Wars, worldwide television broadcasting, and the invention and accessibility of the internet.
Composers sought to express contemporary experience and reassess the role of opera in modern society. I think it is important to celebrate and sing 21st Century opera, as it promotes a representation of the world that we are living in now or reconnect with old themes and values through a contemporary lens. During my studies, I loved working with student composers. I found their ambition and ability to imagine where music could voyage and explore what musical traits would develop into their own musical language fascinating. I have been fortunate to work with living composers on a variety of productions. I really enjoy this style of collaboration, especially in the rehearsal room and in research and development periods, as it is a gift to be able to ask a composer directly about their musical choices.
I thought I would share a list of the contemporary operas that I have performed, to give you a glimpse at the variety that contemporary opera brings in only 20 years or so. I can only imagine what is left in store for the next 80 years, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.
- Pandora in the Fire of Olympus by Tim Benjamin (2019)
Uccellina in BambinO by Lliam Paterson (2017)
The Woman in Reign by Nino Russell (2016)
Jane in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari by Karen McIver (2016)
Jessie Junior in Little White Town of Never Weary by Karen McIver (2016)
Eve in Walk from the Garden by Jonathan Dove (2012)
Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park by Jonathan Dove (2011)
The Controller in Flight by Jonathan Dove (RCM Opera Scene) (1998)