It’s a relatively new opera – although as Buck Ross, director of the University of Houston’s Moores Opera Center, puts it, “I think a lot of people think it’s been an opera for years.”
Probably because its themes of love, loss, tragedy and heartbreak are perfect for this art form. It’s Anna Karenina with music by David Carlson, which was only first launched in 2007. Based on the book by Leo Tolstoy, it tells the story of the title character, who while married has an affair with Count Vronsky and has to choose between staying with her husband or leaving behind her young son to go off with her lover.
So why hasn't it been done before? As Carlson puts it: "It's a really tricky opera. It's been started by many composers, or envisioned and not completed. It took a good year to get a draft together and four years to write it."
UH is known for its blend of new operas along with the classics, and Ross is careful to pick the more modern (usually lesser known) works with an eye to what audiences want to see. “It’s a big, sweeping, cinematic, romantic score. I think it’s very audience-friendly.”
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While the opera had to cut out many characters in Tolstoy’s intricate plot (the two-act opera still has about 20 scenes), it retains the parallel (and happier) story of Levin, who loves Princess Kitty, and, in fact, makes them the epilogue, Carlson says. He used elements of Russian music, including a variation on the Tsar Hymn for his score.
This is the final opera for this season for Moores, so this would be a good time to acquaint or reacquaint yourself with some rising talent.
Performances are scheduled for April 8-11 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday and 2 p.m. Sunday. 3301 Cullen Boulevard. Sung in English with English surtitles.. For information, call 713-743-3313 or visit uh.edu/class/music/opera/current-season. $12-$20.