Yesterday’s review of the Glyndebourne Ravel double bill prompted a question from a regular reader as to why that particular combination wasn’t performed more often. That meshed with some thoughts I’ve been having about why combinations of shorter operas aren’t programmed more often in major houses. They are pretty much a staple of the indie companies in Toronto, especially where contemporary works are concerned but much less featured by the larger companies. For example, in the eight completed or planned COC seasons I have data readily to hand for, four of fifty four slots were/will be filled by such combinations. For the record, The Nightingale etc in 2009/10 (a show that sold out and had an extra performance added), Gianni Schicchi and A Florentine Tragedy in 2011/12, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Erwartung this season and Pyramus and Thisbe etc next season. The last time Opera Atelier did anything comparable was, I think, a pairing of Dido and Aeneas and Blow’s An Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell but that was a very long time ago.
I really don’t know why not. There are lots of works that last around 45 minutes to 75 minutes that could be done in all sorts of intriguing combinations. There are verismo classics and works by 19th century composers that would maybe help bring in the more conservative crowd. There are more recent works of great significance that aren’t often performed because they are short. Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis comes to mind. Then there are lots of contemporary operas that are short. Judith Weir’s Blond Eckbert and Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse come to mind. Even more recently, and closer to home, there is Brian Current’s intriguing Airline Icarus. Obviously these are only a few examples from what is probably a pretty long list.
Maybe one could program a “crowd pleaser” with something more esoteric? Il Tabarro and The Lighthouse? Dido and Aeneas and Airline Icarus? Would this help expose some people to newer music who would never sign up for a full length opera by Birtwistle or Reimann? I find the idea intriguing.