Back in Ames for a week, I've been finishing up my contribution to a large commissioning project put together by Opera America to celebrate the opening of its National Opera Center. Over forty composers are writing songs--the general theme was "home." As they dedicate their new home, I wanted to pause and remember the chain of people, well known and lesser known, who have helped make opera what it is in 2012.
While the singer, Marquita Lister, is singing, at select points the names of deceased contributors to the field is spoken. The challenge was that there is room for only eighteen names. Since the list was worked up with the help of Opera America and Marquita, I didn't actually know all of them personally, but that's ok.
Although there are some very famous and well known names, I wanted a balance. Two names that were important to me to include were composer James Legg and tenor David Eisler. Jim was a talented composer who I knew very well--we were both students of Robert Ward and I was very fond of his opera, THE INFORMER. Although I knew David Eisler less well, having worked with him only once in Miami, he was one of the many artists in our field who died all too young during the AIDS epidemic.
It's rare that you get a chance to publicly remember folks who are gone, so I appreciate the chance to do this thanks to Opera America. I'll post more about this when the whole project is about to be released.