MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Tobias Picker’s New Opera Awakenings

Here’s another premiere that was forced to cancel: Awakenings, the latest opera from Tobias Picker, which has been scheduled to open at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Its source is the fascinating book by Oliver Sacks — who had been a good friend of Picker — about those who survived an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica in the 1920s.

Sacks drew on his work with this patients in the 1960s for Awakenings, originally published in 1973, which prompted W.H. Auden’s verdict that the book is a masterpiece. Harold Pinter was inspired by Awakenings to write his play A Kind of Alaska; a movie of the Sacks book was made in 1990, starring Robin Williams.

The writer and physician Aryeh Lev Stollman, who is Picker’s husband, wrote the libretto. The world premiere production was to have been directed by James Robinson and conducted by Roberto Kalb, with Jarrett Porter creating the role of Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Here’s a link to an interactive conversation that was held by OTSL about the planned production.

Filed under: American opera, Tobias Picker

Opera Without Words

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Under Christoph Eschenbach, the National Symphony recently premiered Tobias Picker’s Opera Without Words — his first major orchestral composition in years. The perceptive critic Hilary Stroh gave a sensitive review for Bachtrack.

Here’s the program essay I wrote for the NSO world premiere:

Tobias Picker, described as “displaying a distinctively soulful style that is one of the glories of the current musical scene” by BBC Music Magazine and “a genuine creator with a fertile unforced vein of invention” by The New Yorker, has drawn performances and commissions by the world’s leading musicians, orchestras, and opera houses.

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Filed under: American music, commissions, new music, Tobias Picker, Uncategorized

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