Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Arts Reporting: Composer Tobias Picker to Head New Opera for San Antonio

From a lengthy article by Scott Andrews in the San Antonio Current:

San Antonio Current

Composer Tobias Picker tapped to write a lead role for new SA opera company

By Scott Andrews

Published April 4, 2012

Tobias Picker (image: Gregory Downer, via San Antonio Current)

. . . [Tobias] Picker, who[m] the Wall Street Journal has called "our finest composer for the lyric stage," has agreed to become artistic director of the new company.

In the wake of the failure of the debt-burdened San Antonio Opera, which closed its doors in February, hopes are high but guarded for the success of [the Opera Theatre of San Antonio or] OTSA, as it has yet to form a chorus or stage a production. The aspiring company is helmed by Tobin Theatre Arts Fund President Mel Weingart, and has a prestigious advisory board that includes Santa Fe Opera past-president Nancy Zeckendorf and opera patrons Emily Coates and Edgar Foster Daniels (who has been a director at five operas, including New York's Metropolitan Opera). If the new company becomes a performing reality, Picker will become the only composer to direct an opera in America. . . .

With such a prodigious talent in charge, rumors have spread that the new opera company will be solely devoted to contemporary work. "Not true," says OTSA President Mel Weingart. "The first production is going to be a Puccini opera. Which one, I don't want to say, but not La Boheme. It won't be Madame Butterfly, either." If all goes well, the first opera will be staged at the Tobin Center for Performing Arts early in 2015.

"There are people who are afraid of the new, especially if it's music," Picker told the Current last week. "Obviously as a composer, and known especially for my operas now, I am interested in the art form as a living art, and not strictly as a museum. But I don't want to encourage people to assume that there is going to be lot's of scary new modern music and nothing else." Picker insists that the programming will be "balanced," featuring both new works and the classics. "I love Puccini, I love all the masters — they will all be represented, but there will be exciting new pieces, too," he said. "Why shouldn't there be, when every other major city in the world has them, and sells out their opera houses with them."

Picker notes that opera in San Antonio in recent years has offered primarily Italian fare, but that there is a larger repertoire to explore: Russian, German, and French operas abound. And when he produces a well-known classic, there will be a twist. "If I do a production of Carmen, it is going to be something that is totally unexpected. The new aspect will be in the production." But Picker stresses that talent is key. "The programming, first of all, will feature the best singers in the world. The productions will be on a level as high as the singer. I want the audience to see productions that are theatrically exciting, it has to capture people's imagination, to be something they want to see it has to be terrific."

Read full text at the San Antonio Current online . . .

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