Where the Wild Things Are (opera)

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Where the Wild Things Are is a 'fantasy' opera in one act by Oliver Knussen, his Opus 20, to a libretto by Maurice Sendak, based on Sendak's own children's book of the same title. Knussen composed the music over the period 1979 to 1983, on commission from the Opèra National, Brussels.

In form and subject matter the work relates to Maurice Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges, as well as Stravinsky's The Nightingale. Knussen also included a number of musical quotations, including Debussy's La boîte à joujoux and the bell motif from the Coronation Scene of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov.[1] Robin Holloway has noted affinities of the score with aspects of Harrison Birtwistle's Punch and Judy and Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice.[2]

Performance history[edit]

The first version of the opera was premiered in Brussels at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, under the title Max et les Maximontres, on 28 November 1980, conducted by Ronald Zollman. Knussen continued work on the score, and the final version was first performed by Glyndebourne Touring Opera at the National Theatre, London on 9 January 1984, with the composer conducting. The first US production was at the Minnesota Opera in September 1985, directed by Frank Corsaro.[3] The same Minnesota production was given at the New York City Opera in November 1987.[4] New York City Opera will revive the opera in April 2011. The cast includes Danya Katok as Max, Leslie Davis as Mama/Tzippy, and Lawrence Jones as Wild Thing with Beard, Andrew Sauvageau as Wild Thing with Horns, Adam Cannedy as Rooster Wild Thing, and David Salsbery Fry as Bull Wild Thing. Julian Kuerti is conducting and Sean Curran is directing.[5] This is the first performance in the opera's history where the Wild Things are off-book.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 28 November 1980
(Conductor: Ronald Zollman)
Movement
Max soprano Jane Manning
Mama mezzo-soprano Gwendoline Neish-Ross
Tzippy/female Wild Thing mezzo-soprano Mary King Jenny Weston
Moishe/Wild Thing with Beard tenor Hugh Hetherington Perry Davey
Aaron/Wild Thing with Horns baritone Jeremy Munro Cenzig Saner
Emile/Rooster Wild Thing bass-baritone Stephen Rhys-Williams Brian Andro
Bernard/Bull Wild Thing bass Andrew Gallacher Bernard Bennett
Alexander dance-mime, Tenor Hugh Hetherington Mike Gallant

The published score notes that "all the Wild Things should be played by dancers on stage with singers (amplified) off-stage".

Synopsis[edit]

Max is a rambunctious boy who dresses in a wolf suit. After he throws a tantrum, Mama (his mother) confines him to his room. Max then escapes in his dreams to a forest, and then to the island of the Wild Things. The Wild Things eventually hail Max as their king, and the "coronation" culminates in a frenzied dance, the Wild Rumpus. In the course of the Rumpus, Tzippy, the female Wild Thing, loses her head, which causes Max to halt the Rumpus. At the end, the dream is over, and Max starts to eat the food his Mama had left for him during his dream time.

Recordings[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew Clements (27 July 2002). "London Sinfonietta/Knussen (review of Prom 10, 2002)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  2. ^ Holloway, Robin, "First Performances: Where the Wild Things Are" (June 1981). Tempo (New Ser.), 137: pp. 36-38.
  3. ^ Michael Walsh (14 October 1985). "Mastering the Wild Things". Time. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  4. ^ John Rockwell (14 November 1987). "City Opera: A Mozart and Knussen Pairing". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  5. ^ http://pressroom.nycopera.com/pr/nycopera/news/20th-century-opera-takes-center-154809.aspx
  6. ^ Hunt, Christopher (1986). "Where the Wild Things Are. Oliver Knussen". The Opera Quarterly 4 (1): 152–154. doi:10.1093/oq/4.1.152. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  7. ^ Bray, Trevor, "Recordings - Knussen: Where the Wild Things Are" (March 1986). Tempo (New Ser.), 156: pp. 27-28.
  8. ^ Galloway, Malcolm, "Record Reviews - Oliver Knussen: Higglety Pigglety Pop!; Where the Wild Things Are" (October 2001). Tempo (New Ser.), 218: pp. 62-63.

External links[edit]