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Sheila Silver's
'The Thief of Love' -
reviewed by

'... music of great beauty.'

The Thief of Love. © 2006 Hummingbird Films

Here's something of a musical anomaly -- a modern American opera from a less than globally-visible composer, and out on DVD.

Hitherto DVD has been limited to the 'big guns' of transatlantic composition -- viz -- André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire (1998) with San Francisco Opera; -- John Adams' Nixon in China (Houston 1988) and The Death of Klinghoffer (Penny Woolcock production) Philips 2003; -- Copland's Tender Land (1979) -- the composer conducts a largely student production; -- Dominick Argento's Aspern Papers with Söderström, von Stade and Neil Rosenshein (Dallas, 1989); -- Joplin's Treemonisha, (Houston, 1982); -- and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (Trevor Nunn / Rattle / Glyndebourne 1993).

John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles (1991) hasn't yet made the jump from video while Samuel Barber's Vanessa remains on CDs only.

One on-line commentator sums it up thus: 'More often than not, new operas (American, British, European or Asian), if performed at all, are subsequently 'incarcerated' -- even if they're well received. Productions are costly and labour-intensive. So repeated performances are rare, and chances of entering the repertory near impossible. Consequently very few 20th/21st century operas wind up on DVD.

But here, now, we get what turns out to be a 'labour of love'. Composed between 1981 and 1986 and revised in 2000, The Thief of Love received its première at Stony Brook in March 2001, the conductor -- David Lawton.

A scene from 'The Thief of Love'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Hummingbird Films
A scene from 'The Thief of Love'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Hummingbird Films

During preparatory rehearsals, Silver and Lawton were thrilled with the students' work -- the lighting, set design, costumes, and makeup -- so naturally when Sheila's husband, John Feldman, offered to digitally record the performances using several cameras and covering both performances -- they agreed wholeheartedly.

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Copyright © 30 September 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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