Just a couple weeks back I grumbled about the lack of contemporary opera on Indianapolis Opera's calendar, so let's just say that I'm pleased with this turn of events. Two 20th-century operas will be presented during the opera's 2012-13 season - Philip Glass's 1984 Akhnaten and Gian Carlo Menotti's 1951 Amahl and the Night Visitors - with Wagner's The Flying Dutchman closing things out in May 2013.
Amahl, the first opera written for television, has remained a Christmas favorite since its premiere; its story of a physically handicapped boy who encounters the Magi gestures toward both Biblical parables and Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Joachim Schamberger, who created the green screen-centric sets for this year's production of Faust and was recently appointed an Affiliate Artist of the Indianapolis Opera for the upcoming season, will return to direct. The opera runs under an hour, making it a viable alternative to The Nutcracker for those looking for a tolerable holiday experience.
Akhnaten - Glass's opera about the titular pharaoh whose elevation of the sun god, Aten, above all others anticipated later monotheistic religions that gained more traction - will be presented in collaboration with IU Opera, with students cast in all performing roles. That's a money-saving measure, to be sure, but also an opportunity to shine some light on one of the best college opera programs in the world. This is the first time the Indianapolis Opera has presented work by Glass, and one of the first contemporary operas ever staged by the company (Menotti was performed several times during the late '70s, but this also marks his return after a long absence from the schedule).
Using set designs similar to those employed for Faust, Schamberger will likewise direct The Flying Dutchman, presented upon the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth. It's among the more user-friendly of Wagner's works, but full of his characteristic tricks (leitmotifs, etc.) in nascent form.
Amahl and the Night Visitors @ Basile Opera Center, 4011 N. Pennsylvania St.
December 5, 7-9, 12, 14-16, 2012
Akhnaten @ Clowes Memorial Hall, 4602 Sunset Ave.
March 8 and 9, 2013
The Flying Dutchman @ Clowes Memorial Hall, 4602 Sunset Ave.
May 10 and 12, 2013