HOUSTON GRAND OPERA
An Opera in Two Acts
Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center
Sung in English with English Surtitles
Prince Dmitry Nekhlyudov, a wealthy nobleman, is being dressed for the day by his valet. Suddenly, all the trappings of a courtroom move into place around him and a trial begins. Nekhlyudov is a juror.
Three people have been charged with robbing a man and poisoning him to cover up the theft. Two defendants, Simon Kartinkin and Euphemia Bochkova, are employees of the hotel where the crime took place. The third is a beautiful young prostitute, Katerina Maslova (Katusha). Nekhlyudov is shocked to recognize her. In a flashback, he remembers meeting her for the first time nearly a decade before. She was an orphan living on his aunt's estate; he was on furlough from officer training. They danced together and fell in love.
The jury is leaning toward a guilty verdict for the first two defendants and an acquittal for Maslova. One holdout believes that Maslova, too, is guilty. To appease him, the others agree to a hastily-worded verdict.
During the jurors' debate, Nekhlyudov's mind wanders to the night he met Maslova. Completely lost in his own passion, he went to her bedroom, ignoring her protests; she finally submitted to his demands. Afterwards, Nekhlyudov thrust 100 roubles into her hand and left her.
His memory fades; he is in the courtroom again. The verdicts are read, and Maslova is sentenced to eight years of servitude in Siberia. The court is shocked. Screaming her innocence, Maslova is led away. Nekhlyudov tells the president of the court that there has been a mistake; the president replies that the sentence may be appealed. Nekhlyudov realizes he is to blame for the course Maslova's life has taken.
That evening, he arrives late for a dinner party given by the Korchagins, whose daughter Missy is generally assumed to be his intended bride. He explains his experience in the court, and how the unjust verdict has unsettled him, but his aristocratic hosts do not understand. When Missy is alone with him, she attempts to seduce him, to cement his commitment to her. Nekhtyudov, disgusted, leaves her. He has suddenly comprehended that he can never marry Mssy, and that he must set things right with Maslova, whatever the cost.
Nekhlyudov goes to visit Maslova in prison. When she realizes who he is, her manner turns harsh. He asks for her forgiveness but she insists she is proud of her life. Nekhlyudov is repelled, but promises to do everything he can to help her. As he leaves, Maslova remembers the night she knew Nekhlyudov had abandoned her for good. She was pregnant, and went to find him on a passing army train, but he never saw her. She ran alongside the moving train, pounding on the window and crying out. That night, she gave up believing in God, faith, help, hope.
Nekhlyudov consults a lawyer to appeal Maslova's sentence, but he realizes that he must do more. He wants to do his part to destroy a society that allows die rich to use the poor in any way they please. He renounces his former lifestyle and makes a plan to sell all his possessions and divide his land among the peasants who work it.
Nekhlyudov returns to the prison to have Maslova sign her appeal. He asks her again to forgive him, and tells her he will marry her. lnftniated, she mocks his "noble" offer. Nekhlyudov hands her a photograph of herself taken long ago. She is moved-the photo reminds her of the young woman she once was. Later, the inspector enters with news that her appeal has been denied, and that she will leave on the next transport for Siberia.
The Opera is based on Leo Tolstoy's 1899 novel of the same name. Resurrection was Tolstoy's last long novel, and his protagonist Nekhlyudov mirrors much of the author's inner struggle for truth. After Tolstoy's successes with War and Peace and Anna Karenina, he decided that it wasn't enough to write novels for the amusement of idle readers, so his later writings are devoted to propagating his theories about religious, social and educational issues.
DAVID GOCKLEY AND THE HOUSTON GRAND OPERA
CREATOR OF HEAVEN ON EARTH PRESENTS
RESURRECTION BY TOD MACHOVER
By Theresa Hyde
HARLOW ROBINSON is truly blessed. He teaches at Northeastern University, the author of biographies of Sergei Prokofiev and Sol Hurok. And he is the author of many essays and articles on Russian music and culture. He is such a blessed man. He is blessed because he got to interview THE MAN for the Houston Grand Opera. I didnt get a chance to interview THE MAN, but I had the opportunity to meet him. Im talking about TOD MACHOVER, THE COMPOSER. He is not unlike the Great Masters of the 1800s, the Master Composers of All Time, WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART, ARRIGO BOITO, RICHARD WAGNER, JACQUES OFFENBACH and GIUSEPPE VERDI. Were not just name-dropping here, were talking OF ALL TIME. But I wouldnt call Tod Machover a Great Master of the 1800s. Hes definitely a Millenium Kinda Guy.
Unlike these composers whos been dead over a hundred years, HE IS STILL WALKING AMONG US. He is still living and breathing among us. And hes been doing more than that. Since 1985, Machover has been professor of Music and Media, head of the Opera of the Future / Hyperinstruments Group and, since 1995, co-director of the Things That Think (TTT) and Toys of Tomorrow (TOT) consortia at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory. His work has been commissioned and performed by artists and ensembles including Yo-Yo Ma, the Kronos Quartet, the Boston Symphony, the London Sinfonietta, the Ensemble InterContemporain (Paris), the Tokyo String Quartet and Lincoln Center. His first opera was named VALIS. It was an international success that was named Best of the Year by the New York Times.
I was trying to find a project about what kind of difference an individual could make in the outside world. I wanted to show how you can make the best of yourself in a way that will also help others.
Interviewed by Harlow Robinson
Tolstoys Transformation, Spring 1999
The Houston Grand Opera Stagebill
RESURRECTION is Tods second opera. Oh yeah, not only is he a composer, hes also an inventor. Brain Opera, another musical work, invites the audience to participate live or via the INTERNET using technology Tod Machover invented. Chhaahh.
The way Harlow Robinson described him was, he talks at a rapid pace only slightly ahead of the thoughts tumbling from his brain. Thats funny. Thats what I felt like when I first met him. I met him one warm Houston night at Mingalones Italian Restaurant right across the street from The Houston Grand Opera headquarters at The Wortham Center. Right after the Houston Grand Operas Production of Leo Tolstoys 1899 novel, RESURRECTION. If you had the opportunity to view this marvelous production, thats great for you. But if you didnt get to see it, well, you could have missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Like the time I got to shake Tod Machovers hand.
My friend and I were having dinner that night. We were sitting at a table having white wine with our Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, discussing how the Houston Grand Opera was able to recreate the desolate Siberian landscape onstage, when 45 year old Tod Machover whizzed past me. He was headed towards the long table behind us, to a big group of Houston Grand Opera celebrants, members of the Resurrection production.
Ex-squeeze me? But, what kind of a rule is that? I mean, were sitting here, meeting the Great
Maestro himself, in Flesh and Blue Blood, our Modern Day Mozart, and this guys telling me Im
supposed to just lay back and act cool about it? Like, NO Huh-WAY!!! No Way!!! HE IS
BIGGER THAN ME. Much Bigger. Way Bigger than me. Oh my gosh, this is really Tod
Machover. This guys like totally fresh from the oven HOT! And hes actually talking to me! And
thats how I got to meet him that one warm Houston night at Mingalones Restaurant.
My name is what?
My name is who?
A jiggy who?
A jiggy what?
My brush with Greatness didnt stop there. He thanked me for all my praise of his Opera Composition and he introduced me to his sweet little daughter, who looked like a few years old. I touched her brown, baby-soft hair as she looked up and was tugging at his sleeves. She was asking her dad for something, simple, in her own words. I didnt catch her name. Girl, you are such a blessed child. Right next to her, I felt like a scrub.
Its as clear as DVD on a Digital TV screen.
----- Lisa Left Eye Lopez
NO SCRUBS by TLC
In my Ally McBeal fantasy, she is surrounded by soft billowy clouds flying around in her fairy wings (why is it that one starts seeing angels after seeing an Opera? Maybe its all the string instruments and the angelic voices that make one feel like one is in heaven.) She is wearing a creamy pink and white tinker-bell costume, waving her fairy wand and dutifully distributing angel dust containing beauty, peace and happiness to the fortunate few around her.
I couldnt help but marvel at this whole scene as he introduced me to his beautiful wife, who is Japanese, with a petite frame, and who possesses an incredibly sweet and beautiful smile. I felt like I was suspended in time. I was among Royalty. The Ultimate Blue Blood Line. The revelers surrounding their table, the members of the Houston Grand Opera Production of Resurrection continued to celebrate this great, wonderful evening. A pretty blonde girl stood up among the crowd and proposed a toast. I saw a man that looked like David Gockley. Gosh, could we be that fortunate? And this big time film distributor hands Tod Machover his business card. Yeah, right. Like Tod Machovers really gonna call him or something. AAAAAAAAAS IF!
Tolstoy believed that people should devote themselves to the highest possible goals, and not waste life on trivia. He wanted us to set our sights as high as possible, even if we couldnt get there. In the character of Prince Nekhlyudov, he shows us that the right answers are always the simplest ones, and that we know the right thing to do. We must listen to the voice inside. Society will never get better unless we take these fundamental moral responsibilities seriously. And you can never say that too often.
Interviewed by Harlow Robinson
Tolstoys Transformation, Spring 1999
The Houston Grand Opera Stagebill
You can say that again. Mr. Tod Machover, let me be one to commend you on setting the highest goals and being able to achieve them. Having the opportunity to listen to the heavenly voices of The Houston Grand Opera and view the magnificent production of your Composition enabled me to understand Leo Tolstoys message and elevated me to a higher plateau. It is simply Quite Heavenly.
TOD MACHOVER'S RESURRECTION
American baritone Scott Hendricks will assume the creation of Prince
Dimitry Nekhlyudov for the world premiere of Tod Machover's Resurrection. Mr. Hendricks
stepped in for the previously announced American baritone Christopher Schaldenbrand, who
has been indisposed and forced to withdraw. Mr. Hendricks, who is a member of the acclaimed
Houston Opera Studio, was Mr. Schaldenbrand's understudy for the role during early rehearsals.
"I feel confident that Scott Hendricks will create a superb Nekhlyudov," said HGO's general director David Gockley. "Scott has been a part of the rehearsal process since the beginning and his performances in other HGO productions the last two seasons have convinced me that he is ready for this huge career challenge."
Based on Leo Tolstoy's 1899 novel of the same name, Resurrection opens in the Wortham Center's Brown Theater on Friday, April 23 with additional performances on April 25m and 28, and May 1, 4, and 7.
With a libretto by Laura Harrington and additional material by Braham Murray, Resurrection is a story of spiritual renewal amid the corrupt institutions of a decadent society. It traces the fate of a Russian Prince called as a juror for the trial of a prostitute who proves to be a servant girl he set on the road to ruin.
The creative team includes British director Braham Murray, British set and costume designer Simon Higlett, lighting designer Chris Parry and choreographer Sandra Organ. HGO's music director Patrick Summers, in his premiere season with the company, leads the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra for all performances.