“An arrestingly gifted young American composer”
–The New Yorker
–International Herald Tribune
“A fascinating wedding of intellect and expressivity”
“Probes timbral relationships and rhythmic complexities with irrepressible enthusiasm”
“You find yourself amused and impressed by his ingenuity and the surprises he presents”
–The New York Times
It’s understandable why many composers have turned to great films as subjects for operas. A film provides a ready-made narrative structure and, often, a score that suggests how music could be integrated. Still, a film as powerful as Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” released in 1967, might seem an intimidating source for a contemporary opera. What can music add?
The American composer Keeril Makan, far from being intimidated, was clearly inspired to take it on, judging from the effectiveness of his “Persona,” a chamber opera with a libretto by the director Jay Scheib, closely adapted from Bergman’s screenplay.
Music comes first in any opera, and Mr. Makan’s 85-minute score, roughly as long as the film, compellingly drives the drama in “Persona.” Mr. Makan sets the text with striking sensitivity to when a moment demands conversational naturalness or supple lyricism. On the surface, the instrumental writing, scored for eight players (members of the Either/Or Ensemble), might seem like a backdrop, shifting from stretches of steady, pulsing chords to atmospheric sounds to squirrely riffs. But Mr. Makan’s acute ear for harmony and eerie textures draw you in continually.
May 5, 2016: Persona at the Gardner Museum
Abandon Fear, for orchestra. Commissioned by New Music USA for BMOP.