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The Hours - Opera
The Hours is a two-act opera with music by Kevin Puts and a libretto by Greg Pierce. It is based on a 1998 novel by Michael Cunningham and its film adaptation (from 2002), both with the same title. The English opera premiered at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York in November 2022. However, the first performance was in March 2022 at a concert in Philadelphia.
Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra co-commissioned the opera. The idea for The Hours opera sprung from a conversation between Renée Fleming and Kevin Puts when they collaborated on The Brightness of Light in 2019. The book for the opera is mostly written in the stream-of-consciousness style, where the characters' thoughts are presented to the audience. Since the human mind doesn't have a linear thought process, the presentation will also be jumbled, erratic, and complex.
Background Information About The Hours Opera
The Hours is the story of three women and what happens in their lives on a single day. Clarissa Vaughan is a book editor in the West Village from New York, and her story is set in 1999. The second woman is the famous novelist Virginia Woolf in Richmond from 1923. The third woman is Laura Brown, a housewife and a mother living in Los Angeles in 1949.
World-famous soprano Renée Fleming gave voice to Clarissa’s character, while Joyce DiDonato was Woolf, and Kelli O'Hara was Brown. Yannick Nézet-Séguin was the music conductor at the premiere performance. The opera has several other characters, like the women’s husbands, children, neighbors, and others present in their lives.
Virginia Woolf is dealing with her demons and writing. Laura Brown finds solace in Woolf’s novels. Clarissa’s friend Richard calls her Mrs. Dalloway (the main character in Woolf’s novel with the same title). With this connection between the three women, the opera explores the lives of women, how their concerns haven’t changed over the years, and that they are not alone in their emotional struggles. The opera presents Woolf’s mental illness with finesse.
Critics say that the opera has a freshness and is a moving drama that touches every audience present in the theater. The libretto is just as wonderful. Reviewers highlighted how the music and words support each other to take the emotions to the next level. The opera ends with the three ladies singing as a trio.