I wish I’d been able to see the American premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s opera based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It was given by San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle in an all-too-brief production.
The intrepid Lisa Hirsch reports:
All things considered, it’s something of a surprise that Tarik O’Regan’s opera Heart of Darkness took four years to reach the United States after its 2011 premiere at the Royal Opera’s Linbury Studio Theatre. Its brevity and eloquence, as well as the small forces it requires, make it a natural for adventurous opera companies everywhere.
Leave it to the ever-alert Opera Parallèle, champion of contemporary and 20th-century opera, to remedy the situation. Its production, strongly cast and beautifully played, scores another success for the company and makes a strong case for the opera.”
Here’s Joshua Kosman’s assessment:
The immersive qualities of the opera have two sources. One is the kaleidoscopic inventiveness of O’Regan’s score, which uses a chamber ensemble and vivid vocal writing to conjure up the moral miasma of the African interior as Marlow encounters it, and to delineate the few nuggets of action that move the plot forward.”
And over at Bachtrack, Jamie Robles writes:
Opera Parallèle’s production visuals enhance the move from scene to scene, adding to the music’s flow. A large screen fills the back of the stage, and across it projections splash colorful images of Ohio-based illustrator Matt Kish, taken from his book interpreting The Heart of Darkness, which offers one illustration for each page of the novella. Kish’s work is similar to that of many graphic novel artists: highly stylized with geometric and simplified forms; the colors are bright and primary with heavy black outlines. The imagery has the simplicity of cartoons, and also their instantaneous impact. Interestingly, the artwork was similar to Phillips’ graphic reworkings of the pages in The Humument.