Georgia Bottoms in Budapest, Interviews, Reviews, Videos

A pretty long, exhausting and fun period is over. Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South had a new, Hungarian production in the frame of CAFe (Contemporary Art Festival) Budapest at the Liszt Academy. The production was a success, the audience loved it and so far the critics had a positive opinion as well. I am glad, that this 85 minute long, one act chamber opera made quite a few people among Hungarian intellectuals to go online and buy Mark Childress’ original novel, Georgia Bottoms. The book deserves attention, and a great translation for the European and Hungarian market. Luckily, many of the intellectuals interested in my art can speak and read English. They all bought the book here, and you should, too!
http://www.amazon.com

Unfortunately however, – this is what happens when a country has a language that nobody else is speaking,- all the interviews and reviews below are in Hungarian. This time being a Hungarian has an advantage: you get way more info about the opera, the production and you can also read about many other topics that came up in the interviews in the original language. I translated a couple of things below for my English speaking friends, and I can promise you that no music-lover will be left behind. I am in the process of translating a selection of the interviews and posting them online as soon as I can. In the meantime, enjoy what you can by clicking on the links below!

Let’s start with a really well translated interview with Rebecca Nelsen, who has been doing Georgia Bottoms’ role for the second time in two years. I myself have learned a couple of interesting, new things about what it’s like to be a woman in the South.
“The Era of Just Standing And Singing Is Over”
http://www.fidelio.hu

By clicking on the link below you can read the very first (posted just a couple of hours after the Sunday premiere) instant feedback by a local theater/ music-theater blogger. She will be posting more about Georgia Bottoms, once the entire CAFe Budapest Festival is over.
http://www.mezeinezo.hu

Here are three interviews with me, mostly about Georgia Bottoms, but also about teaching, conducting and politics.
“When A Chord Sounds That Can Feel Really Good”
http://www.operavilag.net

“I Want to Write Music I’ve Never Heard Before”
http://www.theater.hu

“Constant Failures Mean The System Is Working”
http://www.papageno.hu

“You Cannot Put 9-11 Into Music” (interview) + “Bittersweet Georgia” (review)
These articles will be available for free soon via the website link below.
According to this review my music is from the Deep South 🙂 The critic loved the humor of the opera in text, in music and in staging as well/ “…a múlt vasárnapi bemutatón átütővé vált a mű humora: szövegben, játékban és – éppen nem mellesleg – zenében egyaránt.”
http://magyarnarancs.hu

“Under Lucky Stars”
This critic loved the production in every way possible, including the staging by Andras Alamai Toth, the singing of the entire cast, especially Rebecca Nelsen and Keith Browning, the quality of the musicians of Ensemble UMZE, and the music itself. The critic had a nice summary of my music as well, Let me copy it here, first just in Hungarian.

“A muzsika majd’ minden hangjából árad az amerikai Dél hangulatát megidéző couleur locale, de hiba lenne, ha csak ennyit jegyeznénk meg az igényes kompozícióról, mely (az utóbbi évek kortársopera-tendenciáival ellentétben) jóval több egyszer használatos alkalmazott zenénél: saját értékénél fogva is emlékezetünkbe vésődik, miközben híven festi a szöveg dramaturgiai fordulatait. A posztmodern jó szokásához híven bőven idéz különböző zenei stílusok eszköztárából, ám ezeket egységes keretbe foglalja – sosem támad az az érzésünk, hogy bármely hang is öncélúan került volna a partitúrába. Ez a határozott zeneszerzői egyéniség biztos ismertetőjegye.”

http://nepszava.hu

The FaceBook page of CAFe Budapest festival. There is an interview with me about Georgia Bottoms and about getting our of your comfort zone in general. Again, the interview is in Hungarian, but the “Day 3 of the Festival” video can be enjoyed without speaking this one of a kind language.
http://www.facebook.com/CAFeBudapestOfficial

Oh yes, and I did get to translate Mark Childress’ RAP lyrics for a newly added scene into Hungarian for the surtitles. I even made it rhyme. 🙂

The Season of Operas

On Monday we are starting the second week of ‘DialogScene’ workshop organized by the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation. I will be moderating a “meet the audience” session in the evening.
http://www.bmc.hu
The final performance of the five brand new operas composed by young composers from all over the world, and directed by young Hungarian directors (music-theater directors’ class of Tamás Ascher) is open to the audience and will be held in the evening of Friday, September 15.
Click below for more details.
http://www.bmc.hu

When I am not teaching I am composing new music to my first opera, The Giant Baby. The world premiere will take place in Vienna as part of the 2018 Armel Opera Festival. I am having a lot of fun with totally re-writing the music to the slightly altered libretto based on the 1926 Dadaist play by Hungarian Author Tibor Déry.
https://www.britannica.com

Just so we stick to the theme of the fall of 2017, my latest stage work, ‘Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South’ will get a new production at the Academy of Music as part of CAFe Budapest (Contemporary Art Festival Budapest). Rebecca Nelsen, who sang the title role in Huntsville two years ago returns as Georgia. Also in the role of her son, Nathan I am happy to have the young and talented American baritone, Keith Browning from the original cast. Author of the novel, Georgia Bottoms, my co-librettist, Mark Childress (who will also be here for the Hungarian premiere) and I have added two completely new scenes and changed one of the old ones to make the story more complete. Changes were needed also to give a little resting time and more than a minute to change costumes for rebecca as Georgia Bottoms. The staging will be done by Andras Almasi Toth, and the other 9 roles will be sung by talented Hungarian singers, including Andrea Meláth, head of the Vocal Department of the Liszt Academy. Here are the dates for the performances:
October 8 and 10
and a link to the website of CAFe Budapest:
https://www.cafebudapest.hu

After Opera High

What do you do after the successful premiere of your own opera? You start working immediately on changes based on audience reaction and other factors. Mark Childress and I have been on the phone, Skype, and email several times a day talking about additions and changes to Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera Of The Modern South. Mark has written a few awesome and extremely funny short scenes already. In short, there are new words now for me to put into music. However I do need a few weeks of time to detach from the highs of the premiere week before I can start writing music again for Georgia Bottoms.

In the meantime I am composing music for a Norwegian full length stop animation feature. The production teaser is due next week. I am receiving the final version of the teaser for a last look before it gets sent out to the distributor hopefuls. I won’t tell you anything else about this project now, not even the title of the film. I promise to give you an update when it is appropriate.

Another project I picked up again (started working on bits of it a few months back) is the English language adaptation of Peter Eotvos’ latest opera, The Golden Dragon.
http://schott-music.com
It is a lot of fun to be able to get creative with someone else’s music and also to brush up on my German a little bit.

Stay tuned for more posts about upcoming concerts and projects! I’ll be back next week!

Georgia Bottoms: A Success

I’ve been holding off with my blog post about the Georgia Bottoms World Premiere simply because I’ve been working 12 hours last week. It’s been a crazy ride. I don’t think that anybody here has ever done a practically fully staged opera production in just 6 days. We had our first musical rehearsal last Sunday. David Gately finished staging the opera on Thursday, we had one piano run on Friday, orchestra-dressrehearsal and performance on Saturday.
See David’s FaceBook post here:
http://facebook.com

I’ve been holding off with my blog post also because I’ve been living in an imaginary place for the last week. With the help of Mark Childress, David Gately, Vivienne Atkins and the wonderful creative and stage crew Six Points, AL came to life and from now on it is an actual town not only in Mark’s book but also on opera stage.
Read Mark Childress’ FaceBook post here:
http://facebook.com

I would like to thank Everybody: singers, musicians, staff, crew, sponsors and the audience! Having one’s opera performed live is an amazing thing. I am proud of the HSO and thankful for their support and for all their hard work. We sure created something amazing together to celebrate the 60th season of this amazing organization.

At last, enjoy the FaceBook post of Our Georgia: the amazing Rebecca Nelsen.
http://facebook.com

The Bad, The Good and The Great

The GOOD news: tomorrow (Friday) Amadinda Percussion Ensemble and the Hungarian Radio Symphony is going to play an awesome concert under my direction.
http://mupa.hu
The concert will be broadcast live on the radio and can be listened to here
http://mediaklikk.hu
The broadcast starts at 1:35PM EST.
The BAD news: we won’t be premiering my piece, ‘Drums Drums Drums’.
The GOOD news: I will have a chance to do the World Premiere of ‘Drums Drums Drums’ in Huntsville one year to the date of tomorrow’s concert. I will keep you posted on Saturday, February 13, 2016!
The GREAT news: USA Today picked up on Georgia Bottoms and made it the News of the Day from Alabama (2 days ago)
Here is a FaceBook post about the USA Today preview
http://facebook.com
And here is the complete story on AL.COM
http://AL.com
Stay tuned for more Georgia Bottoms news!

Two World Premiere Opera Recordings

Teaching a conducting master class last week for the Eotvos Foundation at the beautiful and highly functional Budapest Music Center was demanding and a lot of fun. This week had been busier than I expected. On Monday composer Peter Eotvos and producer Laszlo Goz (owner of BMC) and myself had a chance to officially listen to the recording we made this January. I am happy to report, that “Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)” now has a rich in details, beautifully mastered reference recording. Mr. Eotvos will put a few finishing touches on the final version before the end of this year. This World Premiere opera recording will be available as part of the Budapest Music Center Eotvos series sometimes soon in 2015.

I had two days to rehearse the comic opera of Ernst von Dohnanyi
http://www.britannica.com
again (the one I premiered at the Erkel Theater this fall). We are taking this opera into the studio. Starting tomorrow (Sunday) I will be driving almost every day to
http://www.phoenixstudio.hu
where the wonderful singers and the musicians of the Hungarian State Opera will be my partners in crime to record the first ever uncut version of this delightful 20th Century comic opera. The recording will be part of the discovery CD series of Hungarian operas by the Hungarian State Opera
http://www.opera.hu
I am hoping to see the final product on the shelves as soon as February 2015.

Just to take a small break from the recording process (OK we do have a planned day off) I am driving to Vienna, Austria on Tuesday.
I’ll be meeting opera singers Rebecca Nelsen
http://rebeccanelsen.eu
and Tamara Gallo
http://www.tamaragallo.com
to do two pre-rehearsals for the February World Premiere of my Comic Opera of the Modern South, Georgia Bottoms. Sometimes in the second half of December I will be meeting stage director David Gately
http://www.davidgately.com
in the US to discuss details about the February World Premiere in Huntsville, AL.

I wish You All a Happy Holiday Season! Come back here after Christmas time to read about my New Year’s Eve concert with the Huntsville Symphony! See you Soon!

The Tenor Is Dead

Starting rehearsals tomorrow for the season opening production of the Erkel Theater. This theater -named after the famous and pretty much the only Hungarian romantic opera composer, Ferenc Erkel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferenc_Erkel
– was built in the 1910s and just recently reopened after a quick refurbishing after being closed to the public for a couple of years. What is Erkel Theater? This venue was built to serve the “Volksoper” idea: opera and ballet for the masses for affordable prices. Although the idea of having this theater under separate management has come up multiple times in the past decades, since the 50s it has always been and now for sure remains under the management of the Hungarian State Opera. Just imagine City Opera under the management of the Metropolitan Opera with a different repertoire and cheap tickets. It is not such a far fetched idea any more now, is it?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erkel_Theatre
The Tenor, a comic opera by Ernst von Dohnanyi
http://www.zti.hu/mza-dohnanyi/
is the only musical theater piece I know to start with the death of the tenor. No, I mean it actually starts with the funeral of Tenor 1 of a barbershop quartet (or rather the German equivalent of this type of ensemble). The quartet now has only three singers and they are in trouble. They need to get ready for the annual singing contest. They are in dire need of a replacement singer and there is only one guy in town with a great tenor voice. He is called Schippel (funny names are all around in this opera) and he is the flutist of the local orchestra. The problem is, that Schippel is a poor fellow. He has no money, no manners. He is drinking a lot and has a potty mouth. This is of course totally fiction… Our actual singers all are well educated and well behaved. 🙂 In any case the initial conflict here is that the well off middle class members of the ensemble -just like the daughter and the wife of the bass singer- do not want to socialize with the flute player/tenor. He is wanted for his voice but is not welcome in their social circles. Since there is no opera without a love triangle soon another conflict arises. The Prince who has fallen off his horse nearby arrives to the house. He falls for Thekla, daughter of Mr. Hicketier (his name means “Hickupman”) and so does Schippel…, and so does Krey who sings Tenor 2 in the quartet. So this is actually a “ménage a quatre”. I think you get it now how much sitcom there is here.
I will post more about the story and the production.
Stay tuned!
Opening performance on September 14, 2014.

Just how much tenors are well and alive here is a snippet of information about my new composition, Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South. I managed to write not one, not two but three tenor roles.
Rev. Eugene Hendrix: Christopher Pfund
http://www.christopherpfund.com/
Dr. Ted Horn/ Officer Lester: Daniel Weeks
http://www.tenorweeks.com
Sheriff Bill: Ron Roberts
http://www.thesingerlink.com/profile/RonRoberts

Talking (again) about Georgia… Author of the book and fellow librettist
Mark Childress
http://www.crazyinalabama.com
and soprano extraordinaire Rebecca Nelsen
http://rebeccanelsen.eu
visited Huntsville, AL on August 9&10 and helped the Huntsville Symphony and myself to start the fundraising process. The events (two house parties) were a huge hit and a great start to secure funding for Georgia Bottoms, The Opera. There is now a button on the Huntsville Symphony website where you can directly contribute to help us with our goal. Mark Childress has set up a fun FaceBook page as well. If you LIKE the page you will get updated information about the production and more and more fun facts, videos and interesting details of the production as we approach the premiere.
http://www.hso.org
https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaBottomsTheOpera
There is no contribution too little and every LIKE counts! Join us and stay tuned! Keep the tenors alive!

Georgia’s beating the drums

I often get the question from people following my ever busy conducting schedule: “When do you have time to compose?” In my usual sarcastic Eastern-European way I usually respond with: “Never.” But seriously it is always Gustav Mahler that comes to mind. (Strictly in the sense of comparing busy schedules and not putting myself on the same pedestal.) He could only compose during summer breaks because his opera music director duties were extremely busy during the season. (Then there is the famous story of loud cow bells disturbing him so much then he put their sound into his symphonies. This is how distraction becomes inspiration.)
In any case, summers have always been the time for composing. After ending my 13-14 season a few weeks ago [now take a quick look to the right and read the outline of season 14-15!] I am now busy with finishing Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South. It is going to be a three act opera, 80-90 minutes total, for 11 singers and 19 musicians. The story is based on the 2011 novel of well-known American writer, Mark Childress.
https://www.amazon.com/Georgia-Bottoms
Just like with movies, I suggest you first read the book (also available on Kindle and on iTunes as an audio book) then come and see/ listen to Georgia Bottoms The Opera.
Also don’t forget to visit and LIKE our production page on FaceBook
https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaBottomsTheOpera
Right after finishing Georgia I will be diving into composing a triple concerto for three percussion players and orchestra. The piece, called ‘Drums Drums Drums’ is dedicated to and will be performed by Zoltan Racz and Aurel Hollo
http://www.amadinda.com
and the amazing drum-set player Gergo Borlai
http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/
The World Premiere of ‘Drums Drums Drums’ will happen as part of the “Amadinda 30” concert series at Palace of the Arts, Budapest, in February 2015, just a week or so after the Huntsville permiere of Georgia Bottoms.
I will keep you posted on the developments. Now back to composing.

8+1+1/2 Operas

The next year (this time I mean 365 days and not “next season”) is about to bring 8+1+1/2 operas. Let’s start with the +1. After the successful recording session and Hungarian premiere performance of Peter Eotvos’
Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)
http://eotvospeter.com
the composer, myself and the amazing sound engineers of the Hungarian Radio have just concluded the final editing of the studio recording of this work. This hopefully means that a commercial recording of the work will be out soon, most likely with the BMC (Budapest Music Center) label. A professional TV recording of the live performance at the Palace of the Arts will also be aired on TV sometimes in 2014. I will keep you posted.
The “half opera” is in fact an adaptation of the newest music theater work by Peter Eotvos. The world premiere is just happening at the end of June in Frankfurt, Germany. The opera is called ‘The Golden Dragon’
http://eotvospeter.com/commissions
and it is based on a play by famous writer, playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig. I’ll be doing the English language adaptation of this work originally written in German. This involves adapting the text to the music (I’ll be working from the official English language translation + a raw translation of the libretto) and also doing some compositional work in case it is needed.

In the next two weeks I’ll be working with one of the professional orchestras of the city of Budapest called Concerto Budapest.
http://en.concertobudapest.hu
They reside at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music where we will be performing 5 chamber operas under the title “Operatic Sketches”. One of the works is entitled Roman Fever and was written by the head of the Composition Department, Gyula Fekete.
http://www.bmc.hu
The other four works are world premieres composed by students, sung by students of the Academy of Music. The stage director is my good friend (and writer of the libretto of my one act opera, Barbie Blue) Andras Almasi Toth.
More info here:
Operatic Sketches
http://zeneakademia.hu/en

In September 2014 I’ll be the conductor of the new fully staged production of ‘The Tenor’ by Ernest von Dohnanyi. This will be the first staging of this work since the 1930s and the season opening production of Erkel Theater. Another production I am doing at the Academy of Music is, guess what, yet another Eotvos opera. 🙂 A combined group of professional and student musicians and singers and myself are presenting ‘Lady Sarashina’
http://www.eotvospeter.com
as the closing performance of Cafe Budapest (Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival) in October, 2014. This will be the fifth Eotvos stage work I conduct.
In May 2015 I am conducting a shortened version of Ferrucio Busoni’s opera, Doctor Faust
http://en.wikipedia.org
as part of the “Faust Festival” at the Hungarian State Opera.

And finally “opera #8” and obviously the most exciting challenge for me in Season 14-15 is the World Premier of my own work
Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South
Naturally I will be posting a lot about this project. For now here is a link to the book ‘Georgia Bottoms’
Mark Childress
http://www.crazyinalabama.com

You may also look up and LIKE the page ‘Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South’ on FaceBook.