We’re getting excited about the next big event at our parish, a musical interpretation of the end of our patron’s life and his confrontation with King Henry VIII. Performances will be four: 7PM on the evenings of June 21-23 (Thursday through Saturday) with an additional matinee on the 23rd at 1:30. Tickets will be available at the door for $12.50.
Within moments of stepping into a rehearsal for Garrett Fisher’s opera The Passion of Saint Thomas More, I’ve got goose bumps. Soprano Linda Strandberg starts singing in a frosty, pining voice, “What is your benediction?” as choreographer Christy Fisher gauges the subtle details of the singer’s carriage and movement along the stage. Strandberg sings the line dozens of times over the next half hour and I never tire of it.
Seattle composer Garrett Fisher … focuses on the anguish shared by More and his daughter Margaret shortly before the execution. Although careful listening reveals the influence of medieval plainchant and classical Indian music, Fisher’s unusual instrumentation of two sopranos, baritone voice, English horn, guitar, dumbek, and harmonium sounds fresh, like jumping into the aural equivalent of a cold, pure mountain spring. The respiring drones that undergird the opera instill an icy loneliness; when voices overlap, there’s often a majestic, heartfelt desolation.
Such spare instrumentation also shows that Fisher understands the world of opera. New operas generally remain unwelcome in big-time opera houses; for any composer who wants to revive a work after its initial run—Passion first ran in 1995—a stripped-down, do-it-yourself spirit is essential.
Usually Fisher’s operas enjoy an extended run; however, this revival of The Passion is one night only. Next month, Fisher and Co. depart for a mini-tour with dates in New York and, fittingly, St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City.
Lots of information plus some downloadable music samples on the composer’s web page.