The last time baritone Matthew Worth sang with Virginia Opera, he wowed audiences with his performance of the title character in "Don Giovanni." This week he presents a dramatic change of pace singing the title role of Philip Glass' "Orphee."
This is not the typical opera, but one which is based on the 1948 French film directed by Jean Cocteau. Rather than create a new libretto, Glass took his directly from the screenplay. Consequently, there are no extensive arias. The scenes are short, locations change swiftly and dialogue weaves in and out of the music. In brief, it is a new and creative approach to writing an opera, one that gives the audience the sense they are watching a movie.
"This is a beautiful explanation of a man in a middle-life crisis who is learning and adapting to his situation," Worth said. "The opera debuted at Glimmerglass in 2007 and was later performed by Portland Opera. It received critical acclaim both times and raves from the audiences. The music Glass has composed is out of this world. We think of him as a minimalist, but there is nothing minimal in this opera. The conductor, Steven Jarvi, explained his music by telling us, 'You don't realize where the sun is rising or setting. It changes slowly in front of our eyes, just as the sound changes slowly in our ears.' "
Worth has been a fan of contemporary music since his studies at Juilliard with Steven Blier, founder of New York Festival of Song. He sings often with NYFS and earlier this season was soloist in a program entitled "Manning the Canon: Songs of Gay Life." Other engagements last fall included his debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago as Harlequin in "Ariadne auf Naxos," a debut with Pittsburgh Opera as Figaro in "Il barbiere di Siviglia" and as Demetrius in Boston Lyric Opera's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
|Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts|
|When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday|
|Info: $48 to $98; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu. Sung in French with English subtitles.|
"I've had connections with some of the world's finest musicians," Worth said. "I've worked with Maazel a whole lot since I first sang Tarquinius with him the fall of 2006. While at Juilliard, Blier led our celebration of 100 years of song. Every piece was written by a composer who had gone through the school. Now I'm singing this wonderful opera by Glass.
"The score was emailed to me over the summer, but I didn't begin working on it with my pianist until December. We fell in love with it. People can get an understanding of his music by first going to the library to view the Cocteau film, then listening to Glass. The range of this score includes samba, jazz and other modern genres. I'd love for the audience to come away with an enjoyment of contemporary music."