Met and English Na­tional Opera com­mis­sion opera with In­ter­net theme

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

NEW YORK (AP) — Talk about mod­ern opera.

Nico Muhly, a 28-year-old com­poser based in New York, was com­mis­sioned to cre­ate a fic­tion­al­ized ac­count of a Bri­tish teenager who used the In­ter­net in an at­tempt to ar­range his own mur­der in 2003.

Given the work­ing ti­tle Two Boys, the opera has a li­bretto by Craig Lu­cas. Its world pre­miere is sched­uled for June 2011 at Lon­don’s English Na­tional Opera and will be pre­sented by the Metropoli­tan Opera dur­ing the first half of the 2013-14 sea­son.

“In­ter­net crimes are so fas­ci­nat­ing be­cause they’re so spe­cific to my gen­er­a­tion,” Muhly said Thurs­day dur­ing a tele­phone in­ter­view from Lon­don.

“I was one of those crazy kids who was al­ways read­ing the BBC, even though I was Amer­i­can. I re­mem­ber read­ing the con­fus­ing case that no one un­der­stood, on BBC on­line. What was very plain was that the peo­ple writ­ing the ar­ti­cle and the peo­ple who were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case re­ally didn’t seem to un­der­stand what the In­ter­net was — a space of lies and a space of sort of erotic pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

The story of what hap­pened in Al­trin­cham was re­counted in Manch­ester Crown Court in May 2004. A 14-year-old boy posed as a fe­male Bri­tish spy in an In­ter­net chat room and tried to per­suade a friend who was two years older to mur­der some­one al­leged to have a ter­mi­nal brain tu­mour.

The 14-year-old was in fact try­ing to get him­self killed. He was hos­pi­tal­ized with stab wounds and pleaded guilty to in­cite­ment to mur­der and per­vert­ing the course of jus­tice. The older boy, who fell in love with his younger friend, pleaded guilty to at­tempted mur­der, and both were sen­tenced to su­per­vi­sion.

“There’s this con­stant sub­tex­ture of de­cep­tion on­line. It’s om­nipresent, and you never know who you’re ac­tu­ally talk­ing to in any con­text,” Muhly said. “To me, it felt as ex­cit­ing as the scenes in Don Gio­vanni where you go to the peas­ants’ ball and every­one’s dressed up.”

Muhly’s opera, his first, was given a work­shop at Lin­coln Cen­ter with two pi­anos last fall and will be the first opera to reach the Met un­der its com­mis­sion­ing pro­gram with Lin­coln Cen­ter The­ater. The idea is large-scale works go to the Met and smaller pieces to the Vi­vian Beau­mont The­ater.

“We thought it would be a ter­rific opera,” Met gen­eral man­ager Peter Gelb said. “It’s now go­ing to have an­other work­shop in Lon­don this sum­mer.”

Muhly, a Ver­mont na­tive, is a grad­u­ate of Columbia and Juil­liard who has worked for Philip Glass and Bjork. He has writ­ten scores for the movies Chok­ing Man and The Reader and has com­posed orches­tral pieces pre­miered by the Chicago Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and the Amer­i­can Sym­phony Or­ches­tra.

Cen­tral char­ac­ters in the opera are writ­ten for a tenor and a boy so­prano, and the cast also in­cludes a mezzo as a lead po­lice­woman and a “ter­ri­fy­ing” base-bari­tone.

Tony Award win­ner Bartlett Sher will di­rect and Michael Year­gan will de­sign the sets. Cos­tumes are by Cather­ine Zu­ber, lighting by Don­ald Holder and video de­signs by Fifty Nine Pro­duc­tions, the Met and ENO an­nounced Fri­day.

Casts may be dif­fer­ent in Lon­don and New York.

Gelb said the ENO would de­fer to the Met if the opera is recorded for a DVD.

“For the Met, we try to cast some­times big­ger voices be­cause of the size of the the­atre and we would like to have a well-known singer or two, which helps us not only in the artis­tic ex­e­cu­tion but in con­nect­ing with the pub­lic,” Gelb said.

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