Taos Opera Institute has a new director, Mark Craig. He has been there a couple years, staging the final showcase and helping the founders, Mary Jane Johnson and Linda Poetschke. I have been there for two productions of Speed Dating Tonight! and one of RSBE. The students there have regular voice lessons and coachings, with the requirement of performing a new song or aria every week in Italian, German, French, or English.
Now officially their composer-in-residence, I was fortunate that they did a staged workshop of some of NOTES ON VIARDOT.
pictured: Colin Clark-Bracewell, Sophia Vidali, Marjorie Sheaff,
and Shaul Leket-Mor as the younger Ivan Turgenev, younger Pauline,
and older Pauline and older Turgenev.
This included a completed draft of the first act (previously read on book at Florida Grand Opera) and some new sections of the final act. The opera is loosely inspired by an interview Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) gave late in her life in the early 20th century. In the first act Pauline recalls her early life touring with the family's opera troupe; her debut in Brussels; her friend, mentor, and admirer Georges Sand; and her triumphant European tours. The second act (not done yet!) will focus on her midcareer, her salons, and her family life, including a filtered version of her relationship with her friend Turgenev, who often lived nearby and eventually moved in with Pauline and Louis Viardot. Both men died in 1883. Finally, in the last act, the reporter asks her to explain the relationship between the three of them. Annoyed, she dismisses the reporter, and in the last act will recall Ivan and Louis with love, fondness, and loss.
The premiere of NOTES ON VIARDOT is April 2024 at University of South Dakota-Vermillion.