I went to see Elegy for Young Lovers in Philadelphia and I wrote about it for Bachtrack:
“What a funny kind of fairy tale we’ve gotten into!” proclaims one of the characters in Elegy for Young Lovers,
Hans Werner Henze’s odd 1963 opera. The audience may sympathize. W.H.
Auden and Chester Kallman’s libretto of an uninspired poet in search of a
new muse is not standard operatic fare. Despite the familiar plot
devices of a love triangle, a madwoman, and a blizzard (well, the latter
is not so common), its elusive tone and Henze’s kaleidoscopically
shifting score are hard to pin down to any operatic school. It’s
fascinating, and this co-production between the Curtis Opera Theatre and
Opera Company of Philadelphia is well worth seeing.
I’m glad I saw this performance, but I have some qualms about these Curtis Opera Theare [sic] and Opera Company of Philadelphia co-productions. On the positive side, it allows a conservative company to put on lesser-known works. And it’s a good deal for Curtis in that they probably get more money for a more elaborate production. But I get the feeling that they’re benefiting from cheap student labor in a way that isn’t very ethical. Curtis students are excellent and will go on to distinguished careers.* But OCP has expanded this series and cut their mainstage season in recent years, meaning they’re hiring fewer professional artists and using more students. A professional company should be hiring professionals and be paying them
About the libretto, I mentioned the possible Britten connection (i.e. that Auden and Kallman intended Mittenhofer as a portrait of Britten) because it’s too intriguing to leave out. But I haven’t seen any convincing evidence for it so I didn’t want to give it status greater than as a highly speculative theory. I’ll dig a bit more, but ideas, anyone?
*Curtis Opera Theatre puts on its own solo productions as well (with the more reasonable $35 top ticket price versus Elegy’s $100. Those prices for a production where the singers are students, even very good students, seem problematic?