CCO presents " The Sorrows of Frederick"
The Cell Theatre
338 W 23rd St, New York, NY, US
The Center for Contemporary Opera opens it's 33rd season with an atelier of Scott Wheeler's latest opera, Sorrows of Frederick"The Sorrows of Frederick uses modern language to create a darkly comic opera (in the sense that Don Giovanni is a “comic drama” dealing with evil and death) based on the life of King Frederick the Great of Prussia.In Act 1, the young prince Frederick composes music, plays the flute, writes poetry, and corresponds with the great writer Voltaire, who sees in Frederick “the philosopher prince of whom Plato dreamed.” Frederick also falls in love with Lieutenant Hans Katte. Frederick’s father, King Frederick William, arranges Frederick’s marriage to the proper young Elizabeth Christine, in whom Frederick has no interest. In front of the entire court, Frederick William taunts his artistic son as a “French fop.” Frederick attempts to flee with Katte, but they are discovered, and the King forces Frederick to watch as Katte is beheaded. In Act 2, Frederick William has died and Frederick has become the King. To the surprise of the Prussian Councillors, who expect an “artistic” and weak king, Frederick introduces freedom of the press, freedom of religion, builds opera houses, and otherwise tries to live up to the Enlightenment ideals of his idol Voltaire, whom he brings to live with him in his palace Sans Souci. Even more surprisingly, Frederick builds a stronger army than that of his father, and begins a series of aggressive and successful military campaigns. Voltaire cannot condone Frederick’s thirst for war; Frederick responds by calling Voltaire a “French fop,” causing a break with his intellectual and spiritual father. Frederick continues to make ever more destructive wars, but his artistic and human side is neglected, and he dies alone, with only his beloved dogs for solace, while the country hails him as “the greatest king in the history of Prussia.”The music of The Sorrows of Frederick draws freely on the music of Frederick himself, including the theme he gave to J.S. Bach, which is the basis of Bach’s Musical Offering.The piano vocal score of The Sorrows of Frederick was commissioned and workshopped by the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theatre. Excerpts were presented in workshop at the 2015 Frontiers Festival at Fort Worth Opera.Scott Wheeler’s four operas have been commissioned and performed by the Metropolitan Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Washington National Opera and the Guggenheim Foundation. His music can be heard on Naxos, BMOP Sound, and Newport Classic. He has received awards from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bogliasco Foundation, and the Classical Recording Foundation. Mr. Wheeler teaches musical theatre at Emerson College in Boston.Mark Shapiro, ConductorCrystal Manich, Stage Director
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