Should Art be merely an escape or refuge from the realities of our difficult times? In the 1940s, the debate heated and divided artists, musicians and scholars. In Wallace Stevens’s essay “The Noble Rider and The Sound of Words,” the twain are resolved in the idea that art, even “abstract” art can assume the role of social commentary only through innate and ineffable transformations of reality rather than by any explicit agenda dogmatically imposed by the creator. Great art could not be manhandled ideologically. How this solution might apply to opera of the past becomes the task of the director and musicians in balancing the surprisingly diverse elements of the music’s intent, the libretto’s intent, the historical context, and, yes, the composer’s objectives, if any. It is not surprising that Stevens regarded that an artistic creation had its own life apart from the creator’s wishes. Thus, we have the license for interpretation and deconstruction that has become the hallmark of Regietheater in our times.
[caption id="attachment_13316" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Lewis Spratlan, Composer[/caption] Vespers Cantata: Hesperus is Phosphorus by Lewis Spratlan Earlier this month an important new work by Lewis Spratlan was premiered under the auspices of the Phildelphia- based contemporary music groups, the Network for New Music and The Crossing, first at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia and a few days later in New York City, at Park Avenue Christian Church, which supports an especially lively music program. Many readers will recognize Mr. Spratlan as the composer of Life is a Dream, an opera based on Calderón de la Barca's classic play, which has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize and received a brilliantly successful premiere at the Santa Fe Opera in 2010.