As of a few days ago, Bennu’s Birds is a complete opera! OTG’s first commissioned opera (after a few original pieces based on existing works) is ready for a workshop, after we take a quick look at some of those brand new sounds that pour from Rory’s figurative pen. Yeah, most composers now use computer software to write their music down in. Much more shareable, transferable, and transposable!
Ten scenes long. We figure about an hour and 10 to 15 minutes total time. It is in one act, so that is a pretty good length, and what we were shooting for. It is a children’s opera, after all. You know, I keep forgetting that since the music is not at all childish, as so many other children’s operas I have worked on in the past. Something admire about the piece is that it does not condescend to its listeners – young or old.
I should give some introductory remarks about the piece, since you will all, no doubt, be attending the performance of this first draft of the piece. Who is Bennu? He is a boy who has come of age in his village, and therefore is required to sing a prescribed song at a certain time (although, I must say, it’s a really catchy tune!). Bennu is a free spirit, however, and he just doesn’t get why one should always sing what they are told to. No one understands him, as all of his singing (well, until the very end) is in nonsense syllables. We sense that he MUST have something to say, but we can’t figure out what it is. He is forced to leave home and find his own way in the world – a journey of self-discovery.
One thing we have noticed working on the piece, is that so many of the people in this opera are unsympathetic, at least at first, with Bennu. This reflects life to a great degree. We are often judgmental of others, ridiculing those who don’t conform to our standards. But after one finds their own way in the world, everyone else has no choice but to respect that diversity, or be inconsequential.
Who will like this?
I have naturally gotten a lot of questions about the listen-ability of this work. I must say that it is very accessible. I know that can sometimes be pejorative in the opera circles, but as i mentioned before, this is not a work that caters to any perceived lowest common denominators. The music is “new”, but not academic. It is from the heart, not from the intellect. It is melodic without being sing-songy, and tonal, without being derivative of past composers. I was working with a singer tonight, and for the first time, recognized a similarity in style. But only for 2 bars! I said “This sounds like Handel! Well, sorta.”
But seriously, accessible and melodic, catchy and with chewy harmonies? Why, yes! Good triumphing over evil? Nay – flourishing? Yes! A fairy-tale for today. Today’s youth, and today’s young-at-heart.
Next time I’ll talk some about the folks performing – your friends and neighbors are taking on this task!
In the mean time, go to the Juneau Symphony this weekend and wave to me holding the bassoon. I’m the only one this concert, so no conducting for me!
Until next time,