RARA-AVIS: Hammett Opera

From: Mark Harris ( mark_r_harris@yahoo.com)
Date: 26 Sep 2001

This appeared today on the C-Opera (contemporary opera) listserv:

Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 19:57:10 -0700 From: Sean Hazard Carson < shc222@NYU.EDU> Subject: upcoming performances (Oct. in NYC)

Hello all. Something for the Shameless Self-Promotion File:

Monday, Oct 15, 8pm Merkin Concert Hall (129 W. 67th St., near B'way, NYC)
$10 general, $5 students/seniors

A scene from my chamber opera _Red Harvest_ (based on the mystery novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett) will be performed as part of a concert by the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society. I've been lucky enough to get 2 incredible singers and a talented chamber ensemble. Should be a terrific concert.

Saturday, Oct. 20, 8pm St. Peter's Lutheran Church (53rd St. betw 3rd & Lex, NYC)
$20 general, $10 students/seniors

The New York Viruoso Singers (for my money the best chamber choir in NY) will be performing my _Kyrie LA is on Fire_, along with pieces by Carter, Birtwistle, Musgrave, Del Tredici, and others. Not to be missed.

Any questions, feel free to email. Or consult my new website:



Here is further information from the composer's website:

< This chamber opera is based on Dashiell Hammett's hardboiled mystery novel Red Harvest. The full score is for seven instruments (clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, violin, contrabass, and percussion), and six voices. The opera is made up of 12 short scenes, of which I've completed three, and it will probably last about 100 minutes total. I've been very lucky in getting excellent performances so far
(albeit of arangements for smaller ensembles), with great instrumentalists and singers. I'm hard at work cranking out more and more scenes, and I hope two have the whole project completed in early 2003.
  I'm a longtime Hammett aficionado, and I've been thinking about creating an opera based on Red Harvest since I first read it. I think that the author's style - terse and decidedly unpretty - is quintessentially American and has it's own staggered kinds of rhythm and cadence. So much of opera has only 5 minutes of real action or confrontation (often offstage), about which characters reflect, pine, and fret for two hours. With this novel, the physical action, arguments, and rapid advancement of the plot continue at a rapid pace throughout. I hope that this will make for a more entertaining experience.

Another decision I made as I embarked on the project was that no one in the audience should have to read the program to find out what's happening. I'm trying to make all the action and dialogue as transparent as possible, more like a film or stage play than a 19th-century opera.
   For general information about Red Harvest (the novel) or Dashiell Hammett, please consult Michael E. Grost's excellent website. I've been lucky enough to get permission for performances of the opera from Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents in New York. >


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