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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jake Heggie & Gene Scheer Talkback About THREE DECEMBERS

I love listening to artists talk about their creations. I got a unique chance on Saturday to do just that at a talkback for Three Decembers with composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer. They talked about the evolution of their powerful show, which began with a script that playwright Terrence McNally wrote for a benefit.

Some Christmas Letters and a Couple of Phone Calls Too was a fourteen page script that Jake Heggie found "stimulating on a musical level." Touched by the story, Heggie set out to write some music for it.

The opera that became Three Decembers took about seven years to evolve. It was a long process because Heggie & Scheer had to "create a backstory [for the characters and] show the progress that the family took over three decades." They thought about doing a musical theatre piece, but over time it evolved into the intimate opera it is today.

They were interested in the piece's flawed characters, the idea of redemption, and "the notion of how much illusion we need in our lives," but they really focused on exploring how the choices that people make travel with them over time. They both found it fascinating that "even over different decades, you're always the same person."

Scheer used his experience at Central City Opera to explain this. "I've performed here over the years." He said. "I was here ten years ago. It's very interesting to see someone 10 years later - the conversation sort of continues." They also referenced the phenomenon of the family reunion and the struggle to keep the identity you've grown into when you're surrounded by your family, who knew you when you were young.

"A lot of this piece for me," Heggie told us, "is about claiming identity, inside of a family and outside of it." Heggie and Scheer wanted to explore "the complicated messiness of people's lives," and were interested in how Maddie's decision was "sort of like life" in its messiness. "It's something that anyone can relate to," Scheer explained.

Central City Opera’s THREE DECEMBERS (2010).
Pictured Front: Joyce Castle (Madeline), Behind: Emily Pulley (Beatrice).
Photo by Mark Kiryluk.

I don't know about you, but all this talk about Three Decembers makes me want to go see it! I haven't seen the whole show yet. Good thing there's a performance tonight, Saturday, and next Wednesday... you get the picture. I hope to see you there.

P.S. There's a great in-depth interview with Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer (as well as several other artists from the 2010 Festival) in our 2010 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide). Download the pdf here. You can also meet Joyce Castle (playing Madeline) this Saturday at a similar event.

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