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Opera Now: What to See This Season

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Last June, American contemporary-classical composer Nico Muhly, who is barely 30, electrified London audiences with the world premiere of his genre-busting opera Two Boys. That work, a disturbing detective story set in a world of sinister Internet chat rooms, comes to the Metropolitan Opera in 2013. But New York City is getting a chance to sample Muhly’s iconoclastic gifts, with his equally unconventional second opera, Dark Sisters, which currently has its premiere production by the Gotham Chamber Opera (through November 19). Dark Sisters moves next summer to the Opera Company of Philadelphia (June 8-18).

The new piece, which has a libretto by playwright Stephen Karam, follows one woman’s desperate attempts to escape from a polygamist Mormon sect. Fifty Nine Productions, the lighting and projections team responsible for integrating dramatic moving images into the Two Boys staging, creates images that range from stark landscapes of the American southwest to the re-creation of a sensational television news show, studio and telecast feed, side-by-side.

Elsewhere, the Minnesota Opera (through November 20) presents its second week of performances in Minneapolis-St.Paul of Silent Night, a world premiere by the composer Kevin Puts, based on the film Joyeux Noel (and a true story) about a Christmas Eve truce in 1914 between soldiers during World War I.

Plan ahead: in California, the Los Angeles Philharmonic (December 2-4) is producing a concert staging of a rarity—anunfinished satirical opera titled Orango by Dmitri Shostakovich, reconstructed from sketches found in 2004 in a Moscow archive, whose original librettists were Alexander Starchakov and Tolstoy and whose premiere was planned for the Bolshoi Theater in 1932.  Peter Sellars directs the work about an ape-man hybrid born of scientific experimentation, sure to be provocative. Former L.A. Phil music director Esa-Pekka Salonen is back on the podium to lead the orchestra and a cast in the world premiere of the reconstructed prologue of the planned 3-act work.

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Also in Los Angeles, but at the other end of the spectrum, Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, receives performances by the today’s operatic “It couple,” dreamy of voice and appearance, tenor Vittorio Grigolo and soprano Nico Machaidze, as the celebrated star-crossed lovers, in a staging by the Los Angeles Opera (through November 26).

Dark Sisters photos by Richard Termine; Roméo et Juliette photos courtesy of Los Angeles Opera.

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