Eastman Opera Theatre’s 2018-19 season includes “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” music by Ricky Ian Gordon and libretto by Jean-Claude Van Itallie; “Orfeo ed Euridice,” music by Christoph Willibald Gluck and libretto by Ranieri Calzabigi; and “Don Giovanni,” music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
In a season that represents the full spectrum of the operatic canon, these operas create a trilogy about the afterlife and underworld.
“The Tibetan Book of the Dead” on Nov. 1-4 in Kilbourn Hall depicts the epic journey of a dying soul through a series of spiritual and emotional planes along the road of rebirth.
“‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ is an exploration of one of the most sacred texts ever written,” said Steven Daigle, director of Eastman Opera Theatre and chairman of the voice and opera department. “Ricky Ian Gordon’s music fuses this ancient text to a modern musical pathos.”
This production will include a residency by Gordon in the fall. He will work with students to craft the characters and bring the story and its message to audiences.
This piece, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and The American Music Theatre Festival in 1995, is rarely done. No recording of the work is available, though it includes an eclecticism of styles such as jazzy riffs, percussion and blues along with orchestrations.
“Scored for 12 instrumentalists and eight singers, this 90-minute opera teaches us how to approach life and death without fear and uncertainty, how to remain guarded, alert and focused with purpose,” Daigle said.
Timothy Long will join the Eastman faculty this fall as music director of Eastman Opera Theatre, following the retirement of Benton Hess.
“In my first year as music director of the Eastman Opera Theatre, I am thrilled to be conducting a profoundly important opera by one of my favorite people, Ricky Ian Gordon,” Long said. “In ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead,’ his sweet soul shines through and it is a beautiful tribute to his late partner, Jeffrey.”
“Orfeo ed Euridice” will be the Black Box Studio production directed by Stephen Carr, associate artistic director of Eastman Opera Theatre, on Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2019. This opera tells the allegorical tale of Orfeo and his wife, Euridice, as he tries to rescue her from Hades.
The final opera of the season is Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” on April 4-7, 2019, in Kodak Hall, also directed by Carr.
“I’m especially looking forward to working with our new colleague Tim Long as we bring ‘Don Giovanni’ to Kodak Hall next spring,” Carr said. “It’s hard to imagine a more relevant and challenging piece to present during these times in which we are living, especially with the awakening of the #MeToo movement.”
“‘Don Giovanni’ could not be timelier as our society examines its history of misogyny and abuse of power,” Long said. “There is still room for much progress, and we are all sure to learn a great deal from this dramatic masterpiece of Mozart and Da Ponte.”
Tickets cost $24 for general admission, $10 for students by phone, online and at Eastman Theatre Box Office, 433 E. Main St., Rochester. Call (585) 274-3000 or visit eastmantheatre.org for information.