Mourning Becomes Something…

Last Monday the composer Marvin David Levy passed away and though he only ever wrote one opera, the scale of its premiere followed by its passage into obscurity and then late-life renaissance sorta overshadow all his other accomplishments…  I guess opera can do that!

That opera, Mourning Becomes Electra, was one of two operas commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera when they moved to Lincoln Center in the mid ’60s.  It wasn’t too well received, and was barely performed again for three decades, until 1998 when Levy created a revised version for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Since then, it’s been performed at a few other American companies, most lately the Florida Grand Opera, where the newsreel below is from:

Along with Levy’s repairs, I wonder if the very fact of it being an American setting of ancient Greek tragedy (it’s based on Eugene O’Neill’s transposition of the Oresteia by Aeschylus to the American Civil War) can help give it a new life around the US at regional opera companies…

Speaking of Met commissions, it’s apparently not an uncommon story for those rather rare birds to be neglected for a while, then championed dramatically by other companies, as the Los Angeles Opera is currently doing with John Corigliano‘s The Ghosts of Versailles, commissioned by the Met for their 100th anniversary and premiered in 1991.

It would certainly be interesting to track how well Met commissions have done historically once they’ve received their house premiere, especially in light of the Met’s renewed commitment to commissioning new opera…  What might they do differently going forward?

Speaking of all these companies and of new opera, I certainly am excited it’s season announcement season!  Will have to get back to you with thoughts about the recently announced 2015/2016 seasons from several American companies…


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