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Little’s JFK Travels to Opéra de Montréal

(December 2017)

JFK_Montreal.jpg Opéra de Montréal presents the second-ever production of David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s grand opera JFK, which debuted to critical acclaim in April 2016 at Fort Worth Opera. The main original cast reprises their roles for the Canadian premiere.

Composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek’s grand opera JFK, which garnered substantial critical acclaim after its world premiere at Fort Worth Opera in 2016, will be presented by Opéra de Montréal on January 27–February 3, 2018. Jointly commissioned by Fort Worth Opera, American Lyric Theater, and Opéra de Montréal, JFK offers a complex and intimate portrait of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on the eve of the President’s fateful trip to Dallas in November 1963. The production, directed by Thaddeus Strassberger, features the main original cast from the world premiere—including baritone Matthew Worth and mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack as John and Jacqueline Kennedy—joined by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Opéra de Montréal Chorus, led by conductor Steven Osgood.

When JFK premiered in Fort Worth, The New York Times praised the opera as "sensitively written, beautifully intimate" and "rapturous," and Opera News called it "a bold work—in score, forces, ambition, tone and presentation." The Wall Street Journal specified that Little and Vavrek "captured the national sorrow and shock of that time," and The Washington Post strongly proclaimed that with this landmark work, "Little … has become a hope for the future of opera."

David T. Little often delves deeply into political topics in his music: Soldier Songs, an opera from 2006, is a darkly poignant commentary on war from multiple perspectives; and the sky was still there (2010, for electric violin/cello and playback) explores the US Army’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy; and Accumulation of Purpose, which will receive its world premiere at Carnegie Hall in April 2018, is a work for solo piano about the Freedom Riders, who protested racial segregation on buses in the South during the '60s and were met with brutal violence. With the opera JFK, Little and Vavrek have chosen a story that continues to resonate deeply with the public today, as witnessed with recent fervor surrounding the November 2017 release of government files related to the investigation into Kennedy’s assassination.

Visit Opéra de Montréal’s website for more information about this production. Additional productions of JFK will be announced in the near future.

OPERA SYNOPSIS

JFK depicts the final 12 hours President John F. Kennedy spent in Fort Worth, Texas, before his assassination in Dallas, and explores the inner life of the President and First Lady during their final moments together. Two of the three fates guide the Kennedys toward the impending tragedy (a third fate awaits in Dallas). Restless in the Presidential Suite at Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, the President and First Lady drift into sleep. In vivid dream states—both natural and narcotic—the opera explores the subconscious of this complicated couple, examining their physical and emotional pain, their joy and love, and their metamorphosis into American myth.

Drawing on real details of the Kennedys’ final night, the opera uses dreams to create an imaginary time and space, allowing the couple to revisit those who helped to shape their personal and political lives. Jack travels to the moon with his sister Rosemary, where he spars with political rivals, and relives his courtship of the demure Jacqueline. Jackie sings a duet with her future self, Jacqueline Onassis, who dresses her in her iconic pink Chanel suit, assuring her that she has a part to play in the day’s proceedings. Time is flexible in this drama; fate is not.

REVIEWS

"Surreally layered, poetic and theatrically well-paced"
"They have captured the national sorrow and shock of that time."
—Wall Street Journal

"Ravishing…a triumphant work"
"A bold work—in score, forces, ambition, tone and presentation."
—Opera News

"Sensitively written, beautifully intimate"
"Haunting…rapturous"
—The New York Times

"Little, 37, has become a hope for the future of opera"
—The Washington Post

"Little’s score has flashes of his brilliant, hard-driving percussive style. His music theater is often haunted by ghosts, and some of the most effective moments in JFK are found in the otherworldliness of the orchestral colors. Add to that his talent for songful melody and weakness for instrumental shock, and you have a fine cocktail for modern grand opera."
—Los Angeles Times

"soul-shattering"
"A musical and visual spectacle well worth the attention of any opera lover."
—Dallas Observer

"A piece of operatic history"
"JFK has the ability to reach globally, just as the shock of the president’ assassination did."
—Opera Chaser Australia

"The work is a beautiful example of what is possible in modern opera."
—I Care If You Listen


>  Further information on Work: JFK

Photo: Opéra de Montréal

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