Operator endurance test: Matthew Aucoin at “Die Meistersinger”

Opera song


Few operas are as mountainous as “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” by Wagner. The rarely performed work, rich in sonorous rumbles and drooling glottal fricatives, lasts nearly six hours. It ends with a disturbing hymn with flared nostrils to the purity of German art. One of his deadliest sayings addresses the shoemaking profession with the preview “Paving certainly has its share of problems”. Wagner’s only comedy is, in a word, impossible.

Matthieu AucoinIllustration by João Fazenda

Refer to composer Matthew Aucoin, who recently attended the Metropolitan Opera production of “Die Meistersinger”. Aucoin’s opera “Eurydice”, a recounting of Greek myth from Eurydice’s point of view, based on a play by Sarah Ruhl, made him, at the age of twenty-nine, the youngest composer to ever perform. debut at the Met since Gian, twenty-seven. Carlo Menotti, in 1938. Aucoin is also the author of the next book “The Impossible Art: Adventures in Opera”, a celebration of the challenges inherent in the genre and its carnival excesses.

At the Met, a correspondent asked Aucoin to rate “Die Meistersinger” on an impossibility scale. “I would give it a new one,” Aucoin said. He was wearing a black long-sleeved T-shirt, black jeans and lots of thatch. “It’s a feat of endurance, probably more for string players than anyone else – they hardly ever stop.” Aucoin is known for his own endurance training: before spending four years as an Artist in Residence at the Los Angeles Opera and starting his own opera company, he received his graduate degree in musical composition at Juilliard while working as assistant conductor at the meeting.

Once Aucoin crouched down in an orchestral seat for the first act of “Die Meistersinger,” he cautioned, “There’s a sort of opium haze that sets in with Wagner. If I end up falling into your shoulder, be warned. Eighty-five minutes of bowling later, during the first intermission, Aucoin declared: “One down, two to go. We are still at the foot of the mountain. He added, “I find part of my brain registering, well that’s a terrible line. But most of me are a bit addicted. It is this narcotic quality that I mentioned. And this is the “thing” of opera: can you overcome the skepticism that remains in part of your brain?

Aucoin finds it impossible to be a constant in the history of opera. “The first practitioners of this art form, in 17th century Italy,” he writes in his book, “tried to recreate the effect of the ancient Greek drama, which of course they never had. understood, and which no one can be sure was sung in the first place. Or consider the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the subject of Aucoin’s own opera: the song of Orpheus is so beautiful that animals and rocks dance in his presence. No pressure, man.

When the “Die Meistersinger” curtain rose for Act II, revealing nine medieval half-timbered buildings, Aucoin whispered, “This set looks like an Advent calendar. Throughout the second act, he remained sensitive and not slumped; at his conclusion he said: “I’m holding up pretty well.” He confessed that he and her husband Clay Zeller-Townson, a bassoonist specializing in baroque music, had attended that same production of “Die Meistersinger” two weeks earlier and, at Zeller-Townson’s request, had come out afterwards. the first act. “As soon as my husband realized that the blond hero was a replacement for Wagner, the innovator who broke the rules, he was like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m done, I can’t watch Wagner performs this masturbatory act for six hours. ‘ “

Aucoin took the opportunity, during the two hours of Act III, to whisper a premonitory comment: “Here is the uncomfortable German nationalism”; “Here’s where it looks like the choir is telling us to fuck each other.” (In the latter case, more than two hundred singers – all in peasant outfits, some holding bouquets – encourage the world to wake up: Wach auf!) The additional gems of the third act include the lyrics “Not hungry ! Not hungry ! “And the line, in translation, that all Wagner’s listeners have secretly wanted to pronounce:” Now listen to the thunder that bewitched me. Before the final scene of Act III, the curtain fell and the orchestra launched an interlude music; Aucoin adopted the flat tone of a 1930s telephone operator as he mumbled, “Wait, please.”

At the end, Aucoin gave a warm applause and applause during the rappels, but he remained seated until the female star, soprano Lise Davidsen, bowed solo, after which he jumped to his feet. “I’m not going to argue with this,” he said. “Plus, we can finally get up. “??