Here’s a late breaking review of the Chicago production of Final Battle for Love by Chicago-based performer and writer Aaron Hunt. Hunt goes into the history of Thompson Street Opera and has many positive things to say about the cast along with a lengthy discussion of FBL itself, so I encourage you absorb the whole piece. But here’s one of my favorite parts,
“I was lovely-mangled by the curtain call. I’d laughed. I’d been embarrassed. I was breathless. I gasped. I bopped to the beat, and marveled at the singing. Everyone should see this enigmatic piece, and everyone should see Thompson Street Opera giving it”
I’m so glad to hear it, and I couldn’t agree more! Also, “lovely-mangled” is my new favorite phrase.
When I was in Chicago back in January I got to sit down with Matthan Black to record an episode Doing the Work, his incredibly informative podcast about contemporary opera. It was a great conversation and Matthan is both a wonderful singer and thoughtful interviewer. He introduces the conversation so well himself, I’ll just leave it at that and encourage you to listen!
Final Battle for Love is happening this week in Chicago! Shows take place January 19-22 at the West Stage of the Raven Theater. Last week Thompson Street Opera Company Executive Director Claire DiVisio sat down with Matthan Black as his guest for Doing the Work, a podcast about opera and particularly the thriving Chicago scene. They talked extensively about the genesis of Thompson Street and Claire’s commitment to producing new works. Toward the end, they talk about the upcoming production of Final Battle. It’s a super fun conversation and great to hear a producer’s perspective on the show. Give the whole thing a listen because Claire is inspiring. The conversation turns to FBL at about the 48 minute mark.
I’m pleased to share this glowing review of Separate Self with you from the Italian Web zine Kathodik. Many thanks to Irene Monteverde for her help in translating. Here’s the original post with the translation below.
“On this new Ravello CD, composer Philip Thompson’s project engages in a dialogue with other arts (and artists): from sculpting to painting, from cinema to digital animation. As for the musical results of this collaboration, the ability of Thompson to thread together elusive and introspective musical dialogues is positively surprising, as if hitting the listener with candid words and immediate enjoyment, in both cases, wonderfully accompanied by the IonSound Project ensemble, composed of flute, clarinet, viola, cello, and piano, and occasionally joined by percussion. In the first style, there are Trouble and Nocturnes, the latter characterized by short movements playing with the idea of minimal deviation, with a small dose of harmonic ambiguity, on colors of the muted instruments and in slower tempos: expressive elusiveness and textual elegance are some of the more tangible consequences. This quality is also found in the written score for the film “Virgil Cantini: The Artist in Public”, in which plush chords and brief melodic sequences gradually repeat, with tasteful pauses. In the other style is the title track, in three movements, the first of which immediately captivates for its remarkable verve due to the syncopated rhythms of jazz and funk flavor. From there, a slower movement presents crystalline and pleasing melodic lines, a prelude to an ending that perfectly balances lyricism and pulsation.”
It’s an amazing thing to have your opera performed. After Thompson Street Opera Company premiered Final Battle in Louisville this June, I felt like I’d been welcomed into an amazing Society of People Who’ve Had Operas Performed (SOPWHOP, or SWHOP if you’re in a hurry). If getting an opera premiered is jousting with windmills, getting that second performance is kind of the Holy Grail. And here it comes, barely 6 months from the premiere, Thompson Street (the company has relocated to Chicago) is producing it again. This time we’re going to have strings (a quartet) and drums, so we’re getting closer to the full orchestration, so there’s a lot to be excited about. If you’re in the Chicagoland area, you’ve gotta come to hear it!
Grego Applegate Edwards has given Separate Self a glowing review on his highly regarded site GapplegateClassical Modern Music Review. Edwards characterizes Nocturnes for string trio as “music of a fragile, transparent sort of magic.” About Trouble he writes that, “There is a good deal of beauty here. The chorale like concluding passage gives the work a satisfying sort of ‘Amen.'” For the title track’s first movement he praises the “interlocking, rhythmically vivid phraseology that has a nicely inventive melodic contour…”
Edwards ends his review with a highly affirming summary,
“Philip Thompson manages to sound quite fresh and lyrical while making important contributions to the new tonal postmodern repertoire. Chamber music with a difference, accessible, well configured, Separate Self is a tonic for troubled times. Yet it does not pander to an ‘easy’ ears sort of innocuousness. Recommended!”
$10 for individuals. $15 for households. Admission includes an advance copy of the CD and refreshments.
I’m so pleased to invite you to the Separate Self Pre-release Party with IonSound Project. Separate Self officially drops on July 8, but we have advanced copies to offer. IonSound will present music from the new album and be joined by guests Emily Pinkerton, Eva and Michael Rainforth, and Neil Newton. Please join us in celebrating the release of Separate Self, hear some wonderful performances, and enjoy some delicious refreshments!
Here’s a preview of the album featuring three excerpts from the title track. I hope you like it!
Funding for Separate Self was provided by the Investing in Professional Artists Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. Additional funding was provided by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, and by generous individuals who contributed to the Fractured Atlas Fiscally Sponsored Project “Recording Project: Philip Thompson’s Visual Arts-Inspired Chamber Music.”
Lord Poetry (Sam Soto) and Bob Noxious (Nicholas Ward) try to choke one another as Starla (Krista Heckmann) and the Narrator (Alex Kapp) look on.
This review of Final Battle for Love and the other works on Thompson Street Opera’s “Not for the Faint of Heart” program focuses mostly on the singing, but there are some positive things about the show itself such as,
“The pseudo-wrestling scenes alone were, by themselves, almost worth the price of admission.”
Yeah, I’ll take that.
Of course it doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the amazing experience it was to work with Claire DiVisio and Thompson Street Opera Company. Katie Nix’s direction was inspired and she was somehow able to make a small production play as epic. All the singers were well prepared and delivered their lines with absolute conviction. They really embodied their characters. It was a joy to see this piece come to life after so many years.
I’ll have more photos and audio excerpts soon, but yeah. Wow! So refreshing to work with young artists who are all about taking risks and exploring new artistic territory!