Composer Bill Smith plays clarinet in the stars of the Space in the Heart: a jazzopera Friday, November 7 & Saturday, November 8, PONCHO Concert Hall, Cornish College
Space in the Heart, composed by Bill (William O.) Smith from an original libretto by Peter Monaghan and directed by Jim Horne, is not your usual musical fare. A “jazzopera” for trio and three vocalists, it tells an archetypal American tale of desire, desperation, and despair.
Smith is a renowned clarinet virtuoso, composer, and frequent collaborator with Dave Brubeck, who has long pursued a blending of jazz and new-music styles. Space in the Heart is inspired in part by the early operas of such composers as Claudio Monteverdi, with their uncluttered plots and staging, and very much by the jazz tradition. Smith’s aim has been to “achieve a new kind of opera that is simple and clear with maximum freedom for the instrumentalists, who largely improvise,” he says.
In the work – seven dramatically-sung scenes with abstract instrumental interludes
– a model astronaut, besotted with the captain of her mission, and stunned by what she learns during a space flight (that Venus is in fact not the Planet of Love), vies with a rival for the captain’s heart. The work crystallizes around classic themes – romantic love, covetousness, violence – but also such scientific realities as Venus as an acrid orb.
The score is for three outstanding vocalists and a jazz trio (including a drummer who doubles expertly on French horn). As for the plot: it may recall various actual events, but the fiction here is despite those, not directly based on them.
Featuring the Bill Smith Trio (Bill Smith, clarinet and piano; Brian Cobb, bass; Greg Campbell, drums, percussion, and French horn) and singers
Becca Friedman, Maria Mannisto, and Jordan Petersen. Directed by Jim Horne.
Presented as part of the Cornish Music Series with the support of 4Culture, Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Jack Straw Productions, and Artist Trust.
Click here for the complete schedule for the rest of the upcoming shows at the 2008 Earshot Jazz Festival