Claire DiVisio and Matthan Black Discuss Final Battle

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.

…perfectly balances lyricism and pulsation…

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.”

Translation, Irene Monteverde

“A Tonic for Troubled Times”

Grego Applegate Edwards has given Separate Self a glowing review on his highly regarded site Gapplegate Classical 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!”

Read the review in its entirety.

Arts-Louisville Reviews Final Battle

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.

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!

A Review of Final Battle—in Rehearsal!

Already some great buzz about Final Battle for Love in this preview of Thompson Street Opera’s season, and they’re still rehearsing!

“Earlier this month in a three-story house in the heart of Louisville’s Russell neighborhood, rehearsal for an opera about wrestling got underway.

As a pianist hammered out dramatic chords, conductor Alex Enyart oversaw the pacing of the score to keep the eight singers on track as they rehearsed for the upcoming world premiere of “The Final Battle for Love.”

In this story – which is just one of five works Thompson Street Opera Company is presenting over the next three weeks – there are no battles over a special ring as in Richard Wagner’s famous trilogy, the “Ring” cycle.

Instead, a wrestling ring marks the setting of this short opera where the fight is brewing between Lord Poetry and Bob Noxious for the love of Darling Donnis.

“Get outta my way, Rockin’ Robbie! Get outta my way!” sang baritone Nicholas Ward as Bob Noxious to another wrestler blocking him from getting at Lord Poetry when he’s down.

Even with the singers sitting in chairs, the tension mounted. And so did the humor in this play by Pittsburgh composer Philip Thompson.”

Just wait till they’re standing up!

Preview of Final Battle in Louisville’s Courier-Journal

Here’s a very nice preview of Thompson Street Opera’s season which opens this weekend. Final Battle for Love is next weekend, June-3-5. Thompson Street Executive and Artistic Director Claire DiVisio talks about about Final Battle beginning at about 8:45.

And be sure to check out the photos in the full article. Several of the photo captions include a phrase like  “Members of the Thompson Street Opera Company rehearse a scene for an upcoming performance about professional wrestling.” I really love that I was able be a part of making that phrase possible!

Video from the Duffy Institute

It’s hard to believe I got back from Norfolk and 2 1/2 weeks at the Duffy Institute just a little over a month ago. Recently, a wonderful video and article produced by Jake Runestad was featured on New Music Box. The video introduces all the composer fellows, our music, and our thoughts about the institute. I show up around 4:02, but you’ll want to watch the whole thing. Without a doubt, one of the best parts about this year’s experience was the opportunity to dig into 6 other new works in great detail and talk about them with the composers.

Late Breaking! Screening of Virgil Cantini Film This Tuesday

So I just found out from filmaker Will Zavala that a film I scored for him in 2009 will screen this Tuesday night (December 13) as part of Pittsburgh Filmakers monthly Film Kitchen series. The film is called Virgil Cantini: the Artist in Public and it features lots of art around the city that Pittsburghers will likely have seen without realizing who made it. Also, there’s a clip of Cantini talking with King Friday on the Mr. Rogers show! This film has so much Pittsburgh color in it! I felt like I had set part of my city to music when I finished the score!

There’s a reception at 7 p.m. and the films begin at 8 p.m. (So wouldn’t that be a pre-ception?) Tickets are a mere $5, so come out if you can. There’s a nice little preview of the evening in the City Paper this week.