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John Harbison (BMInt staff photo)

Harbison’s Gatsby To Play the Semper Opera

Yes, we remember the excitement in Boston when the Metropolitan Opera commissioned our own John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby in 1999. Revivals have followed sporadically in San Francisco, at the Aspen Music Festival, and in concert performances in Boston and at Tanglewood Music Center.

Finally, the first European staged performance of the full grand opera Gatsby comes at the historic at Semperoper Dresden from December 6th through 21st. According to the company, “The opera blends modern classical music with jazz and swing to paint a thrilling portrait of a debauched and decadent society, where double standards clash with idealism.”

Wayne Marshall serves as music director, Keith Warner essays stage direction, with dramaturgy by Stefan Ulrich, and set design by the late Johan Engels. In this staging, Director Keith Warner avoids the directorial conceits often plaguing recent European productions. Instead he goes directly where we would expect—to the excesses, excitements, and impending doom of Fitzgerald’s mid-20s America.

F Scott Fitzgerald in1921
F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1921

Europeans, very conversant with the Fitzgerald novel, tend to emphasize the role of class more than American readers. Warner uses a number of theatrical devices to emphasize the attitudes of the Wilsons, the working-class couple so crucial to conflicts within the story. The racist and elitist rants of Tom Buchanan, perhaps more comfortably folded into his familiar character by American fans of the book, emerge in stark outline in Warner’s conception.

Unlike the recent reduced orchestration productions, Semperoper will fully stage the original version for large orchestra. Tenor Peter Lodahl will make his Semperoper debut as Jay Gatsby, and the part of Daisy Buchanan will be performed by soprano Maria Bengtsson.

Read more on the production here, and view video clips here.



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