BMOP Launches New Season With "Four Saints" 11/16
Presented by Boston Modern Orchestra Project
November 16, 2013
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation’s premier orchestra dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording new orchestral music, presents a one-night only concert performance of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts (1928). An abstruse modernist opera sans plot or formal structure, Four Saints is the perfect way for the unflagging BMOP orchestra to kick-start the new season. “We’re psyched to be taking on this icon modernist work,” says Gil Rose, Artistic Director/Conductor of BMOP. “Four Saints is ebullient, grand and unusual! It’s exactly what BMOP feeds off of.” The music is a potpourri of tempo changes and sounds oscillating from waltzes and tangos to folk dances and marches all coupled with a witty libretto. “First time listeners will be taken aback by its outlandishness but, somehow it all resonates in the end.” Written 85 years ago, Four Saints is still fresh and original today. Known as a landmark of American modernism, it changed the course of American opera. The combination of Thomson (1896-1989), a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, and Stein (1874-1946), an imaginative and influential writer, was rare in the history of early 20th century modernism. The first of the two Thomson-Stein operas, Four Saints marks a landmark in the history of American musical theater. “It was early in 1972 that Gertrude Stein and I conceived the idea of writing an opera together,” says Thomson. “Naturally, the theme had to be one that interested us both. ‘Something’ from the lives of the saints’ was my proposal; that it should take place in Spain was hers. She then chose (and I agreed) two Spanish saints, Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola. The fact that these two, historically, never knew each other did not seem to either of us an inconvenience.” Considered to be the first opera in the United States to boast a singing roster of exclusively African American talent, Four Saints premiered in 1934 in Connecticut. The New York Times observed, “To be sure, the spirit of inspired madness animates the whole piece… ‘But does it make sense?’ the serious minded will ask. It does not – to the too serious minded. But neither do ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and other creations of fantasy.” Led by conductor Gil Rose, BMOP will be joined by Sarah Pelletier (soprano, St. Teresa I), Gigi Mitchell-Velasco (contralto, St. Teresa I), Deborah Selig (soprano, St. Settlement), Aaron Engebreth (baritone, St. Ignatius), Charles Blandy (tenor, St. Chavez), Tom McNichols (bass, Compere), and Lynn Torgove (mezzo-soprano, Commere).