Dallas Opera Announces Its Most Adventurous Commissioned Work To Date

Joby Talbot will lead us on this adventure in modern opera.

Last night during its "Composer Conversations" event, The Dallas Opera announced a commission of a new opera, Everest, by composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer. The one-act work will mark the first collaboration between Talbot and Scheer, as well as Talbot's first operatic endeavor. The two will begin creating Everest this summer and the work will premier at the Winspear opera house in February of 2015.

Joby Talbot is not your mother's classical composer. In an on-stage interview with D Magazine's Peter Simek, he was effortlessly witty, charming and cool. "When I was in school," he remarked, "I used to play oboe in the orchestra and chamber music groups and sing in the choir, but I also played bass guitar in a really dodgy rock band."

In a sense, Talbot is still playing with oboes and rock bands. His compositions have explored diverse genres and collaborations including film and TV scores, ballet, traditional orchestral and vocal works, and pop-collaborations. In 2006 he produced and arranged Aluminium, an album of orchestral arrangements of songs by The White Stripes that utilizes traditional acoustic orchestral instruments to recreate electronic feedback sounds. You might also have heard his work in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), for which he composed the score.

Gene Scheer partners to take this work to new heights.
In Gene Scheer, Talbot will have a collaborator with extensive operatic experience. Scheer wrote the libretto for Jack Heggie's opera, Moby-Dick (premiered by The Dallas Opera in 2010) and is currently collaborating with Jennifer Higdon on an opera based on Cold Mountain for the Santa Fe Opera. Scheer and Talbot met in Toronto after the librettist attended a performance of Talbot's full-length ballet, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. While in Toronto, the composer and librettist shared meals and discussed a variety of potential subject matter for their collaboration before landing on the story of the May 1996 expeditions to Everest's summit that left 8 dead and survivors riddled with guilt and questions.

The most interesting thing about Everest is that the opera doesn't exist yet. Talbot and Scheer are basing the work on documentary evidence about the expeditions - books, survivor interviews, etc. The tale is harrowing and heroic and explores the effects of oxygen-deprivation on the character's psyches and life and death decisions. Last night, Scheer and Talbot hinted at myriads of concepts and ideas for the work: "flights of fantasy," the sounds of the wind as recreated by an orchestra, the mountain as a living "angry" organism, and the depth of human emotion in the moment of decision making. However, Scheer repeatedly pointed out that nothing is set in stone at this point and everything is apt to change. "What we do," he remarked, "remains to be seen."

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