Opera Memphis' General Director Ned Canty compares Later the Same Evening to the collage-like film Love Actually. "It's like snapshots," he says. John Musto's intimate operatic work is more specifically inspired by the shadowy urban landscapes of American painter Edward Hopper. It asks what brought the characters inhabiting Hopper's nocturnal world to the places where the painter froze them in oil and time. And what happened immediately after?
Later the Same Evening is one of three contemporary operas by living composers being presented at the fifth annual Midtown Opera Festival. The 10-day event also showcases performances of Jake Heggie's epistolary family saga Three Decembers, and Peter Hilliard and Matthew Boresi's Blue Viola tells the story of a priceless antique instrument that winds up in the hands of a junk dealer when it's left on the street. A fantastic journey follows.
"I think Three Decembers is a masterpiece, and I'm especially drawn to it," Canty says. "It aligns with a lot of the things I care about — the most basic notions of what it means to be in a family and what it means to be human."
Season five crescendos with a production of Arnold Scheonberg's Pierrot Lunaire, with projections by Memphis photographer Joey Miller.
Canty says he's especially looking forward to a new event called the "Operathon" — back-to-back performances of this year's featured operas followed by workshop performances of German opera with a new libretto. He's also excited about a libretto reading for Opera Memphis' latest co-commission, The Rising and the Falling. With a quilted narrative by Jerre Dye, this first opera commissioned by the U.S. Army tells the story of wounded veterans coming home.
The Midtown Opera Festival was created to produce great, intimate, and mostly modern and contemporary opera. It's also a perfect tasting opportunity for the opera curious.