Opera creation today


New operas are composed and staged in the world every year. It is difficult to identify an artistic movement linking contemporary creations, partly because of a lack of distance and partly because composers seeking originality and experimentation do not want to become affiliated to particular styles.

Modern opera has little in common with works of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. Composers have explored new ways of creating music theatre. Musical composition has changed a lot too. Now composers often use a smaller orchestra and sometimes electronic music and raw sounds.

Composing an opera is still a huge labour, demanding high skills and virtuosity and implicating a whole team in its realisation; as a composer, a librettist, musicians and singers for workshops and rehearsals; a director, production team and technicians for the visual aspect of the works.

Themes treated in modern opera are varied, and sometime very actual like Cecilie Ore’s Dead Beat Escapement about the death penalty or David Sawer's Skin Deep about cosmetic surgery and our society's obsession with looks. Now librettists draw their inspiration from films or modern plays. In 2004, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris staged the adaptation by Peter Eötvös of Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America. The Royal Danish Opera has programmed the adaptation by Poul Ruders of Lars von Trier’s film Dancer in the Dark for 2010. Celebrities are sometimes the subjects of new works too. For example, an opera about Jerry Springer (Jerry Springer: the Opera) was composed in 2003, and Covent Garden has commissioned for 2011 a work to be created by Richard Thomas and Mark Antony Turnage about the life of Anna Nicole Smith. 

After four centuries of existence opera is still evolving and renewing. Besides great opera classics, opera houses programme world creations by contemporary composers. Opera still has good days ahead!