Theo Morrison discusses the genesis of the Oscar Wilde opera:
In May of 2004 I was in England for the London premiere of my James Joyce song cycle, Chamber Music, which I had composed for the great countertenor David Daniels. David and Martin Katz gave a briliant performance of the songs in Barbican Hall, as they have some twenty-five times in top venues throughout North America and Europe. The London Chamber Music was received most enthusiastically by the audience and the British press, and the recital was broadcast by the BBC throughout the UK.
John Cox came backstage afterward to greet David, then introduced himself to me, saying how much he had enjoyed the song cycle. He asked, "Have you composed any operas?" I replied, "No, but I would certainly like to write an opera for David!" He said, "Then you must. I'm an opera director. Here's my email address. Please be in touch should you want to talk more about that possibility." Being not closely associated with opera at the time, when I got back home to Ann Arbor, I looked John up on the web, where I discovered what most dedicated opera fans know, that he is one of the world's major stage directors with a long history of brilliant productions on several continents.
Immediately I shot off an email to John, and we decided to meet in San Francisco that September, where he was directing Cosi fan Tutte. Meanwhile I had talked with David, who expressed warm enthusiasm both about John, with whom he had worked, and the Oscar Wilde subject. Both John and I read the great Richard Ellmann biography of Wilde that summer, so when we got together we both were excited about the subject. After two years of email exchanges and my spending a month in Oxford and London working with John, we decided to co-author a libretto based on writings of Oscar Wilde and his contemporaries. We were off and running -- slowly.
Opera Philadelphia is thrilled to have co-commissioned Theodore Morrison's OSCAR and to present the opera's East Coast Premiere in February 2015 at the historic Academy of Music. I was present at the World Premiere with our partners at The Santa Fe Opera in 2013, and I was blown away by the music of this beautifully tragic tale of self-expression and individual freedom.
The great countertenor David Daniels is remarkable in this role, conveying all of the wit and arrogance we associate with Oscar Wilde and delivering a heartbreaking performance through his trial and imprisonment. The cast, including Heidi Stober, William Burden, Dwayne Croft, and the dancer Reed Luplau, is impeccable.
It is a joy to work with Theo on his first opera, and as the work continues to evolve through revisions, we look forward to its next iteration in Philadelphia.
- David Devan
General Director & President,