the full range of all the colors

Here are a couple of Washington Post articles, both by Anne Midgette, about the Washington National Opera and the American Opera Initiative, the project that Douglas Pew and I are writing a new piece for…

One from January:

“…[the] New American Works project, which will roll out in the 2012-13 season. (The season will not be announced until March.) It’s conceived as a three-tiered system: 20-minute commissions from student composers; hour-long works by “emerging” composers; and, eventually, full-length works by American masters. The first student commissions — presented in threes, in concert, at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater — are projected to arrive late this year.

“The sense of laboratory and workshop is something we are going to work hard to develop,” Zambello said. “Of course, you can workshop something to death. But I think opera is such a complex, strange beast. We’re also addressing the question of what is opera today. We’re all grappling with that issue. What is it going to be in 10 years, 20 years?”

Speaking from Vienna, Austria, WNO Music Director Philippe Auguin pointed out the benefits of exposing young composers to the resources of an opera house. Even if the scale of the works is small, he said, the composers have the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra at their disposal.

“If a composer wants to use eight percussion players, he can,” Auguin said. “It’s like offering a painter the full range of all the colors.” He added: “If Stravinsky had not been allowed to use two tuba players in ‘The Rite of Spring,’ he would have never written ‘The Rite of Spring.’ Allowing composers to write something from a larger dimension helps composers to go deeper into what they can bring.”

I don’t *think* Doug is planning to use eight percussion players, but it’s nice to know that, you know, he can think about if if he wants to! There’s also a more recent article from June, which talks about recent leadership changes at the WNO. Via ArtsJournal as usual.