Opera della Luna’s UK premiere of the chamber opera Three Decembers by contemporary American composer Jake Heggie will take place at Wilton’s Music Hall, in Whitechapel, east London, in May.
The opera tells the story of a Broadway actress, Madeline Mitchell, and her two adult children, Beatrice and Charlie. It takes place over three decades of the AIDS crisis, with each of three parts set in the month of December in the years 1986, 1996 and 2006, as the characters struggle to connect when family secrets are revealed. Three Decembers received its world premiere at Houston Grand Opera in 2008.
The libretto, written by American songwriter and lyricist Gene Scheer, is based on an original text by American playwright Terrance McNally. Some Christmas Letters was created in 1999 for a Christmas concert to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The cast consists of mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer as Madeline Mitchell, Welsh soprano Llio Evans as her daughter Beatrice and Canadian baritone Jean-Kristof Bouton as her son Charlie. The production is directed by Opera della Luna’s artistic director Jeff Clarke; it is conducted by Toby Purser.
The production runs at Wilton’s from 17-18 and 20-21 May, with performances starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are on sale now and cost £15-30. Tickets for the Wednesday and Friday evenings include admission to a post-show discussion. The run time is 90 minutes, with no interval.
In the middle of the run, on 19 May, Opera della Luna will present a rehearsed reading of a very different production. The Chocolate Soldier (1908) is an operetta by Oscar Straus, based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Arms and the Man. The German-language libretto is by Austrian writers Rudolf Bernauer and Leopold Jacobson.
It tells the story of Lieutenant Bummerli, a Swiss mercenary in the Serbian army. He takes refuge from his Bulgarian enemies in the house of a Bulgarian general, where he sets hearts a-flutter, almost compromises three ladies and then ruins the general’s daughter’s wedding to a Bulgarian soldier-hero.
When Straus approached Bernard Shaw for permission to turn his play Arms and the Man into a comic opera, he was given three conditions: none of Shaw’s dialogue nor any of the character’s names could be used; the libretto must be advertised as a parody; and Shaw would accept no royalties. However, the story could be re-told.
Financially, this was a very unwise move by Bernard Show, as the operetta went on to earn far more at the box office than the play ever did.
The works of George Bernard Shaw went out of copyright in 2021, and Opera della Luna’s performance will be the first at which his dialogue can be used in the staging of the operetta.
Tickets for this one-off performance, at 7.30pm, are on sale now, costing £15-30. It runs for 2 hours, plus an interval.
Presented by Opera della Luna, Three Decembers, a new chamber opera by Jake Heggie, will receive its UK premiere at Wilton’s Music Hall this month.