Conductor Michael Christie, who is from our town and is now music director of the Phoenix Symphony, is in the news this week. Christie is at the Minnesota Opera, conducting "Wuthering Heights," an opera by the great film music composer Bernard Herrmann. That is a poster for it at left. The opera, which is almost never performed, opened April 16.
It is too bad "Wuthering Heights" is so seldom performed because it seems to have very wide appeal. Witness that the opera was written up not only on something called the Bronte Blog but also on a blog subtitled "Twin Cities Hub For Hip Jewish Stuff."
You can read about the opera, listen to it and hear an interview with Christie on this Minnesota Public Radio page.
"It's not just wind blowing on the moors," Christie says. "It's about what people feel when the wind is blowing on the moors."
The Wall Street Journal, reporting on the opera last weekend, opined that the music was beautiful but that the opera was too long. Reading up on the opera I learned that its length has thwarted performances in the past. Apparently Julius Rudel was ready to conduct it years ago but asked for cuts, and Herrmann would not agree.
From what I hear of the music it sounds extremely intriguing. Christie calls it somewhat Wagner-esque which occurred to me too. In case you are new to the wild world of movie music, Bernard Herrmann wrote the scores to "Vertigo," "Cape Fear" and, most famously, "Psycho." He was the master of suspense and intensity.
Here is a scene from Herrmann's "Wuthering Heights" that shows Cathy and Heathcliff (singers Sara Jakubiak and Lee Poulis).
I have a problem in that I am married to the 1939 movie. I wish an opera based on "Wuthering Heights" could have just have used the wonderful music by Alfred Newman. The music will always be tied up in my mind with that story. Wow, look! I am not the only one thinking of "Wuthering Heights" in this gloomy brooding afternoon. Someone posted the original trailer for the movie, just today.
Prejudices and hangups aside, though, I admit, the opera intrigues me. It continues at the Minnesota Opera through Saturday.
I wish I were there!
-- Mary Kunz Goldman
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