How Esperanza Spalding and Wayne Shorter made his dream come true: opera

“It’s uncomfortable given, but if it comes also embarrassing to say, ”Rundell joked, making it clear that he was willing to negotiate with the vocalists about tempo and dynamics. Shorter’s handwritten scores are made with careful detail, but generally do not prescribe the speed or volume at which music should be played. “It’s really much more like playing Handl and Purcell, music that was written without dynamics in which you have to use your taste and judgment,” Rundell said in an interview.

Blain-Cruz, director (who was received the Doris Duke Art Award last month; Shorter received the award in the same series), he said the score and libretto were filled with “Easter eggs”. Although the music is extremely heavy, she said, which can make blocking and flowing a challenge, ”she puts on an atmosphere of playfulness:‘ Cool, we’ll try that and why don’t you choose yours notes? ‘ That freedom enlivens the process. “

Shorter stayed home on the West Coast while the company rehearsed, but tuned in to rehearsals via Zoom. And just a few weeks ago, he was still feeding Spalding and Rundell new notes, continuing a process that has been common throughout, an evolving process in which every new addition or change – be it from Shorter, Spalding, a member acting cast or someone else. otherwise – it is worth responding.

Watching the Armory exercises on video, Shorter had a moment of full circle. In the 1950s, while studying at New York University, he went to weekly ROTC exercises at the same Park Avenue armory, which was still a military building at the time. About that time, Shorter first came up with the idea to write an opera called “The Singing Lesson” about a girl in New York whose brother is in a motorcycle gang. When “West Side Story” came out, he abandoned the idea.

He soon became a famous saxophonist throughout the city and a writer with a special voice. He became the lead composer for all the bands he joined, from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers to Miles Davis ’quintet. Boldly declarative but cold-sighted, his compositions have expanded the range of harmonious possibilities in jazz. He then jumped beyond that in the 1970s and 1980s, played with the jazz-rock fusion band Weather Report, and delved into the Brazilian tradition and boundaries of electronic music.

Throughout the 21st century, for the first time in his career, he maintained a stable acoustic quartet (Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums) and stepped deeper into orchestral writing. “Iphigenia” will not be the first time the quartet has teamed up with a western orchestra.

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